By: Angela B
Disclaimer: Not mine and never will be.
Note: Thanks to NT for beta reading this for me
Note: It’s been awhile since my last visit through Vegas. Mom and I did a short tour of some of these hotels (lobbies and gift shops..except mall..didn’t make it there.) at about the same speed as the guys (well maybe a little slower) and my memory may not have it all correct.
Note: For the sake of the story I took a few minor liberties concerning layouts in the hotels because I had no idea some of this stuff looked.
Ezra walked out onto the golden-lit street, his friends surrounding him. He smiled at the raucous, the six men he was with, were able to create in just walking down a simple stretch of sidewalk. Of course this was no ordinary street and this wasn’t Denver. This was Las Vegas and the street was commonly called ‘The Strip”. Worldwide all you had to do was mention the two together and everyone knew what you were talking about; with it’s millions of bright lights lining the path from one end of town to the other. Where even after midnight, the city was exciting, loud and tourists were still bustling about.
Ezra had been slightly surprised when the men had nominated him to plan their bi-annual vacation, but then again, as JD had put it so succinctly, the camping thing never quite worked out the way it had been planned. Somehow, something outrageous always seemed to befall them. Escape convicts, falling off mountains, run-ins with certain wild animals, and always one or more of them winding up in the local Podunk clinic.
So, Ezra had planned a trip to Las Vegas, where there were ladies for Buck, people to analyze for Josiah, spas to help a wound-up-tight leader relax, and entertainment for the rest. The undercover man smiled at the memory of their prior entertainment. Having arrived earlier that day, they had all agreed they would like to see one of those famous ‘Vegas’ entertainment shows with the eye-popping, glimmering-dressed showgirls their first night in town. Ezra now quietly laughed to himself as he remembered the look on poor JD’s face when those girls came out on stage, with their barely covered torsos, long feather shirts and shapely figures. One of the girls had stood right in front of their table and had winked at the blushing kid. For a moment they thought they were going to have to splash water on the beet-red kid. Buck had had a good laugh at the computer whiz’ expense.
The show had actually been quite good and the seven of them had left feeling rather hyped-upped. It could have been the show, or the camaraderie of good company with no stress, or it could have been the complimentary drinks they had received from the girls at the next table. Whatever the reason, all of them had agreed to walk around and visit the different hotels and casinos.
Steven Marx had been living on the streets of Vegas for six years. He had climbed his way out of the back alleys and worked his way up to the ‘Strip’, earning himself a reputation as a tough guy. Marx loved The Strip with its lively atmosphere, bright lights and the tourists that provided him with plenty of income. He worked after midnight, when people had become more lax of their surrounding. Standing next to the wall, he spotted his target and ambled his way through the crowd, sidestepping the rubbernecking people rambling their way along the sidewalk.
The seven men had just stepped out into the madding crowd, quickly becoming immersed in the tide of people. Spreading out a bit, Chris, Nathan, Josiah and Buck caused a wide berth and ample space for the young claustrophobic sharpshooter to traverse the path easier. Ezra had kept an anxious eye on his teammates and friends throughout the evening; constantly monitoring their reactions, wanting them to have a good time. A shrill cry from an older woman caught their attention. It took them all of two seconds to process what had occurred and to take action. Steven Marx would learn an invaluable lesson this night.
Six men took off after the purse-snatcher, while Nathan stopped to check on the woman on the ground. He briefly glanced at his departing compatriots, and then turned his attention back to the injured woman. Sometimes he hated being the one to give aid to the wounded. He missed out on all the fun the others got to have. Putting his caring face and reassuring smile firmly in place, he assured his patient and her husband all would be fine and that his friends would see that their valuables would be returned to them.
Ezra was in the lead, until the longer-legged members of the group surpassed him. There were times when he really hated being one of the shorter members of the team. People were dodging and scrambling to avoid the running men, yelling and cursing at them as they ran past. Some people stood on the sidelines watching with appreciation and awe, thinking the scene was part of a T.V show or movie being filmed on location. A few, thinking the man in front was being chased by a mob, tried to intervene, only to be shoved aside by one agent, glared at by another and have the others hiss “agent” at them.
Marx ran through the crowd and up the ramp to the entrance of the Luxor. It’s magnificent black triangular shape stood out against the skyline, with beads of light dancing their way up the sharp edges, reaching a pinnacle of one bright light resting at the tip of the shape. The small round globe shooting a beam of light up into the air, announcing the location of such a spectacular wonder of a hotel.
Running between the paws of the sphinx into the entrance and headed into the hotel. Not bothering to glimpse at the mammoth replicas of Egyptian monuments, the creative artwork, or the Egyptian hieroglyphic tablets, the thief ran through the casino. None of the men paying any attention to the glittering lights and constant pinging of slots machines rewarding their players.
Chris couldn’t see what was coming and was unfamiliar with his surroundings, so he watched the man he was chasing. Dodging when he dodged, turning when he turned, tracing his steps exactly. Suddenly he saw the man shove an employee out of his way and rushed past a line of people into a dark room with loud music and dazzling lights, causing the body to change to the stimulations quickly. The blond sighed at the thought of chasing this guy through the nightclub. It was every movie’s worse cliché and now he was doing for real; they would never live this down if word got back to Denver and of course it would because everything Team Seven did made the news. There were times when Chris wished they weren’t so well known. Shoving people aside, Chris didn’t worry about his compatriots; he just kept his eyes glued to the back of the assailant. Soon enough they were exiting the loud, over-taxing stimulation and back into the hotel.
None of the men watched where they were headed or knew were they were going, they just ran. The room they ran into was an extremely large and open -- King Tut’s tomb, made to be an exact replica. The owners had employed artists to create an exact replica, right down to the placement of each article. The artist had used the same 3,000 year-old techniques, using the same type of tools, gold leaf covering, linens, pigment to color the masks of the sarcophagus. Josiah glimpsed quickly of what he was missing, the statues, vases, pottery, pictographs on the walls and hoped they would be able to return later and tour the fascinating room at a slower pace. Getting his mind back on task, he followed the group through a dark and narrow hallway. He took no notice of the change in the type of people he was eclipsing or what they were yelling. They seemed to be just like all the others he had passed tonight.
Marx dashed through the darkness, recklessly shoving people from his way and out into the bright lights, temporarily blinding him, but not letting it slow him down. He crossed the stage, unaware of the people screaming, and managed to avoid the props and the three performers banging on drums. The blond, following close behind, shoved a confused artist out of his way, as he led the charge. The artist had minutely thrown Chris for a loop, the makeup the man was wearing making him appear to be something other than human. Right beside him was Vin, followed closely by Buck and Josiah with JD and Ezra bringing up the rear. As Vin passed by one of the performers, the man chose that precise moment to bang on his drum, dousing the young sharpshooter with yellow paint. An explicative slipped out of his mouth as he wiped the running mass out of his eyes.
Josiah excused himself as he bumped into one of the performers, causing JD and Ezra to sidestep the sudden hindrance in their path. JD slid on the paint-slicked floor and immediately recovered his footing. Quickly looking to the side, the realization of what show they had just interrupted flashed into his mind -- The Blue Men Group. He loved their shows and wondered briefly if he could get the guys to come back and see a live show. He quickly readjusted that thought and hoped the hotel would even let them back in after unceremoniously becoming part of the show tonight.
They were suddenly outside again, the change was noted subconsciously, but not affecting any of the runners. They continued their jaunt past the closed swimming pool that held a few illegal swimmers; where perched far overhead, golden-lit lion heads mounted to the wall were spewing water forth into the pool. The three men in the lead continued forth without noticing anything. Josiah, giving it his best, was running across the still wet cement floor surrounding the pool when he lost his footing and went down, landing on his backside, narrowly missing taking Ezra down with him and landing in the shallow end of the pool. The undercover agent managed to dodge the large man and stopped long enough to insure the fellow agent was all right before once again taking up the pursuit.
Back out on the street, the men once again had to deal with the slow-walking dawdlers. People were invariably pushed out of the way, or worse, pushed down. The ones walking the opposite direction and could see the blond man in black jeans coming at them cleared a pathway for him and the men with him. By this time, Las Vegas’ fine men in blue had been called concerning the disturbance. Yelling out their identification, Agent Larabee and his remaining men were joined by the arriving police officers, which had been unceremoniously relegated as backup.
Marx ran up the stairs of the Excalibur and ran across the ‘drawbridge’. The interior was modeled around a medieval environment. On the outside, the castle took on a Disney-esque look; with its lighted colorful spires reaching up into the night sky. They didn’t notice the ‘moat’ flowing down beside the bridge, nor did they see any of the action taking place below them.
They took no notice of where they were going or the surroundings they passed as they ran on. It was becoming personal with a few agents now. The noise and lights were blocked out by the single-minded objective as the five agents raced after their quarry through yet another casino. Entering another type of entertainment show, the change was acknowledged and noted, but the pursuit kept up. Down the row of steps they ran, past the tables and people cheering and clapping. Over the railing each man hopped, only to find himself in a jousting arena. Here they lost their backup, as the police following the group stopped and called in their location to other police officers on the other side. Several curses could be heard aloud and plainly as runners and knights on horseback attempted to avoid each other. The heavy garments and helmets the knights were wearing made judgment difficult. Buck nearly missed being ‘pierced’. Ezra shoved a horse out his way, as rider was helpless to see peripherally. Through the dirt arena the chase continued. Reaching the other side, they jumped the railings and, once out of the arena, they ran straight into a ‘street faire’.
Unfortunately trying to avoid the storytellers, jugglers, whimsical performers and vendors was less possible and, where Buck had moments before out-maneuvered a horse, he was not so lucky with one of the ‘street people’. Colliding bodily with a juggler, Buck, the juggler and all the pins said juggler had been tossing, wound up in the air and crashing spectacularly to the ground. Buck and the juggler managing to take several more faire people down with them. A kaleidoscope of colors blending together as tangled legs and bodies landed in a heap. JD yelled a warning as he leaped across the scattered bodies and mess. Never losing stride, the young agent looked back to check on his partner, seeing a grimacing nod of assurance, the young agent continued.
To say that Chris Larabee was getting ticked off was putting it mildly. There would be no stopping him once he got his fingers wrapped around the scrawny little neck of a certain perp. Glancing to the side, he knew Vin felt the same way and knowing the his men like he did, there would be a fight over who got to finish the man off.
They were outside again, they found steps and more screaming people. This time the screaming was coming from high above them as they passed the undeniable red roller coaster of the New York, New York Hotel. Pushing people aside, the chase continued. Marx had caught several glimpses of the men chasing him by now, the look on the blonds’ face in particular. The miscreant was no longer running to escape the law; he was running for his life. It had become of utmost importance to his health that he escape these men.
Running into the lobby of the famous hotel, the atmosphere once again changed. This time Central Park. Cafes’ edged the tree laden ‘park’. Running past some of these, Ezra noted the trademark stores. None of them noticed that several storefronts were designed to resemble actual store fronts in New York or that others were architecturally made to resemble apartment building. They passed by several cafes with well-known names and continued on. Running past the Coney Island Pavilion, Vin snatched a hotdog sitting on the counter, yelling he would be back to pay for it later. Here the people were massed a little tighter. Making a right turn and onto another ‘street’ inside the hotel, JD was beginning to have trouble assimilating whether they were inside or out. It looked so real and flooded his senses with familiar scenes. Turning back down another street, the men found themselves running in a circle and heading back out the same entrance they had earlier entered.
The men began wondering if the crazed idiot was going back to the Excalibur. It was not to be, as the man turned left and went across the sky bridge. Once again the men were joined by the men in blue. Going down, taking the stairs two at a time, Marx led the men into the richly green lit MGM hotel. Passing the giant golden lion standing guard at the entrance, the men turned down the stairs and ran through the Rainforest Café. The remaining men all jumped as they ran past one of the large animated animals at the exact moment it decided to growl. Chris and Ezra went for their guns, but quickly assessed they were in no immediate danger as the rest continued on. Catching up quickly with their teammates, they ran out into the open area. Passing by the lion habitat, Ezra momentarily registered the two lionesses lying up on the huge boulders placed inside the grand glassed in area. For a nanosecond Ezra regretted the fact the animals were kept in such a manner for the entertainment of the people, but also realized the grand cats were well cared for and had a better life than most kept in a zoo. All of this was processed and thrown out in a matter of steps.
Darting down a hallway, all the agents groaned and wondered what kind of entertainment they would become a part of now. As they entered all the runners hesitated for a mere a second as they found themselves in ‘La Femme’ act. The ‘La Femme’ was an updated, classed-up topless show. JD froze. His eyes nearly popping out of his head, as he watched the colored lights flash and whisper across the bodies of women adorned in negligible clothing. By the time he regained his senses, he noticed the men were well ahead of him. Pushing himself to the fullest, he knew if he lost the guys, Buck would never let him live it down.
Whipping around a corner, he collided with a patron and did a little dance trying to get around the person. Getting smashed from the back by the three following police officers, JD was cursing under his breath at his luck. Finally getting around the man, he looked up and no longer saw the group and groaned loudly. He would hear about this for the rest of his life. Running in the direction he last saw them, he kept his head rotating side to side in hopes of catching a glimpse of the runners.
Chris, Vin and Ezra were beginning having dreams of stringing up a certain purse-snatcher and torturing him slowly. They were all running out of air and the only thing keeping them going at this point was pure adrenaline and revenge. Not one of them was going to think of all the damage and disruption they had caused on this caper. Ezra knew, without a doubt now, that they, as team, were never to be destined to take a fun, relaxing vacation. He had wanted this to work out so well, to prove to the guys he could provide fun, relaxing entertainment without tragedy striking their ill-numbered team. The number might work at the casino table and when they were working on a case, but apparently it was a bad number when it came to down time.
Running through yet another casino, Ezra saw the craps table ahead of him. Pulling out a red chip, he had garnered earlier, he threw it on the table as he passed by. “Put it on seven,” he yelled, never breaking stride.
Chris, with single-minded determination, kept his eyes on that shirt in front of him and thought evilly of the lessons he could teach this miscreant. Sliding around a corner, he could see an exit door ahead and groaned. He was thinking seriously of just shooting this idiot, but with so many innocents milling around, he wasn’t willing to take the chance. Subconsciously, he knew he was losing his men one-by-one and temporarily wondered what had befallen the youngest agent. He quickly looked out the side of his eye and caught sight of the undercover agent. The man might not have the long legs like most of them, but he sure had the determination. Chris smiled. Without a doubt, one of them would be taking this perp in.
Back outside again, the number of people was much thinner and the three agents counted their blessings as the runner cursed his luck. It was easier to escape with more people around, although he had to regrettably admit he wasn’t having much luck in that department. These men chasing him were no ordinary cops. They were like a pack of wild dogs chasing after a meal. He was seriously thinking about quitting and surrendering, but looking back and seeing the looks on those three faces changed his mind. Steve Marx had seen a lot of bad things when he worked the back alleys, but none of them frightened him like the men running after him.
Entering another building, the immediate difference in structure was processed in each brain. Vin muttered as he realized they had entered a shopping mall. They ran past a Coca-Cola store and all its paraphernalia. Hitting the door at the end of the hall, the men found themselves in a stairwell. Taking the steps three at a time, Steve Marx hated his bad luck. Chris matched the man step for step. Jumping off at the end of the flight of steps, Larabee narrowly missed his prey. Landing wrong, Chris felt his knee give right before he went down to the ground. Curling up in a ball and hissing in pain, the blond grabbed his knee and squeezed his eyes shut. Vin stopped and Ezra skidded, halting his steps right before almost landing on his rocking boss. “Go!” Chris hissed. The two remaining agents looked at each other and silently promised they would end this now.
Marx felt the air whish by his neck as the other man’s hand missed his collar by millimeters. Marx took this chance and yanked opened the door to the mall and once again felt himself immersed in people. Not letting up on his legs, Marx could hear the running feet approaching him once again. Having found himself on the first floor, Marx passed by the giant white polar bear marking an entrance into another Coca-Cola store. Racing past the giant store of M&M’s, Marx saw his chance of getting rid of his pursuers. Passing one of the bins holding the colorful, coated, chocolate candies, he smashed his fists through the glass container. M&M’s flowed like a rainbow of candy.
Vin, hot on the man’s backside, felt the marble-like objects under his feet and registered his instability seconds before he went down like a brick, landing on the mounds of candy layered underneath him. Seeing Ezra’s passing glance as he ran past, the sharpshooter yelled, “Get him, Ez!”
The undercover renewed his resolve to catch the thief as he watched the man in question begin climbing the seventy-five foot rock-climbing wall in the center of the mall. Grabbing onto one of the handholds, Ezra’s scooted up the wall free style with no problems, his dexterity and coordination becoming an asset once again. Gaining on the slow climbing jerk ahead of him, Ezra reached out and grabbed a foot at the exact moment the man kicked out at his pursuer. Both men lost their precious hold on the rock and fell back to the ground with a body-jarring, teeth-rattling thud. Ezra, never losing his hold on his quarry, slowly opened his eyes and quickly closed them again as the room began to rotate harshly. Trying again, Ezra opened his eyes to find a panting JD standing over him, looking quite pleased and concerned at the same time. “Nice going, Ez.” The undercover merely shut his eyes against the doubled-headed swirling image of his friend.
The staff in the E.R had seen many things, but this was a first. They had learned quickly though, thanks to the whispered warnings and suggestions of a certain black medic, to squeeze the gurneys carrying the five injured agents into one of the big emergency rooms. Josiah was on the end, lying on a couple ice packs, a back brace wrapped tightly about his waist. JD had managed to procure a set of scrubs for him, instead of his wet clothes.
Buck had had his wrist x-rayed and was currently waiting for a pre-cast wrapping. Once the majority of the swelling had gone down, he would go and have a regular cast put on, perhaps a nice bright blue one. Right now, all he wanted to do was be able to breath properly. When he had gone down, a foot had been unceremoniously rammed into his ribs. Though not broke, he would have a nice black and blue bruise tomorrow.
Chris was lying on his gurney quietly contemplating early retirement. His knee, now the size of a cantaloupe, was throbbing in time with his heartbeat. No surgery would be necessary this time, but it was going to hurt like crazy for the next week or so, and he would be on crutches for a couple of weeks.
Vin had several pieces of glass removed from his hand, where it had landed on a small pile of glass. He had received only a couple of lacerations that needed stitches and now laid on his bed with his gauze-wrapped hand resting on his chest. A nurse had done her best to scrub as much of the yellow paint off the man as possible. JD had said he looked like a giant M&M.
Ezra lay like a statue, trying to keep his concussed throbbing head from exploding onto the walls. His eyes had yet to open, afraid he’d lose the control he barely had on his rolling stomach. He had been put on the other end, which was fine with him; he didn’t feel like being included in the group right now. He had been given a simple assignment, to plan a vacation. It shouldn’t have turned out like this; there were no mountains to fall off, no streams to fall into, and no backwoods hillbillies to shoot at them. This was supposed to be a good vacation.
JD and Nathan stood guard over their injured friends. The men, in various array of dress, would not admit it, but right now they felt slightly vulnerable against the medical staff. JD and Nathan made sure both sides got what they needed and ran interference. The young agent was standing near Buck’s bed, leaning against the railing, taking the pressure off of his legs and back. Vin looked at the black-haired agent and finally asked a question that had been nagging on his mind. “So kid, how did you find us?” Vin asked.
JD blushed deeply, the guys had yet to learn the real reason he had lagged behind. He had simply told them he had run into an innocent and then he got tangled up with the cops. “I just followed the screaming people and the devastation,” he smirked.
This earned him a couple of laughs and a few smiles. JD noticed Ezra had yet to say a word since falling off the wall and was beginning to worry that the friend was hurt worse than he let on. Pushing off the side of the bed, he quietly walked to the other end of the room and walked up to the side of the bed. After discerning the man was not asleep, he quietly asked, “Ezra, you alright?”
This garnered everyone’s attention immediately. Buck sat up on the side of his bed. Josiah painfully twisted onto his side, turning towards the younger agent. Chris turned his head and biting back a grimace, raised himself up on his elbows. Vin got off his bed and walked to the end of his friend’s bed.
When no answer came forth the sharpshooter quietly questioned, “Ez?”
Fighting back the bile that rolled around inside, Ezra ground out, “I’m fine.”
Nathan was instantly on guard and Buck hopped off his bed and walked down the aisle. JD leaned over the railing and said softly, “Sure and I’m Elvis. What’s wrong?”
Ezra took an unsteady, deep breath. The action was causing another wave of throbbing in his head and a sudden roll in his stomach. “It wasn’t suppose to be like this,” he explained, not having the energy for lengthy words.
“Like what, pard?” Vin asked, not liking Ezra’s coloring.
“You entrusted me to plan a nice, pleasant, relaxing vacation and look what happened,” Ezra said quietly.
“Yeah, but this is only the first night, Ez. We got five more to go,” JD said, ignoring the five groans around him. “ They’re not all going to be like this,” he reassured his friend.
Vin started laughing, holding his hand close to his side. “Dang, Ez. You’re the only one I know who would take responsibility for a purse-snatcher committing a crime right in front of us.”
At that time a police officer walked through the door. Acknowledging Chris, he merely nodded to the rest of the agents. Shaking his head, the officer said, “I heard you guys were determined, but I didn’t know ya’ll were this bad.”
Releasing the grin he had been fighting, the officer took out his notepad and began reading it off. “The owner of the Excalibur wishes to know if you,” looking at Buck, “Are interested in a job in his King Arthur’s tournament. Apparently he was impressed with your speed and agility.” Pausing, he continued, “Of course, he didn’t think you’d want a job as a street entertainer.”
This earned him a laugh. Continuing to read, he stated, “Someone owes the Coney Island Pavilion for a hot dog. The M&M manager wants to know whose going to pay for the mess.” Waving his hand in the hair, the officer said, “Don’t worry, that one’ll be taken care of.”
“And lastly The Blue Men want to know if you like to come back for an encore. Seems you were a big hit. Oh and the casino at the MGM wants you to know that one of you hit the jackpot,” he said, shaking his head while the others laughed.
Maybe seven wasn’t such a bad number after all.
Turning to leave the officer stopped and asked, “Ya’ll going to be in town for long?”
“All week,” JD piped up.
The others didn’t miss the officer’s grimace and knew he was contemplating having to put men on overtime to watch out for the seven men visiting their fair city.
Chris finally managed to sit up and commanded, “Lets go,”
Six men followed him out the door as JD piped up and asked, “So what are we going to do tomorrow?