The regional convention for the Law Enforcement Information Exchange wrapped up the first day of workshops around four thirty in the afternoon. All Vin wanted was a quiet night in his room before the festivities started, maybe order some room service, and just vegetate with the other six before they were forced to open the suite and convert it into the Hospitality Room. He figured he'd talk Ezra into it, so the undercover agent wouldn't have to walk on that bad leg. He knew it hurt him from the winces the man kept trying to hide the longer he hopped around on crutches during the long day.
When he opened the door to the suite, his plans turned to cinders. Not one of the Seven sat idle; a hotel employee was unloading, with Nathan and Josiah's help, a large luggage cart filled to the top with alcohol. A large tub on wheels carried more ice than Vin thought they would go through; four smaller drink tubs waited for the beer.
The hotel left the bar assembled, figuring on having the contract for supplying and tending the bar for the nights of the Hospitality room, so Buck started lining up the bottles necessary to stock a working bar. JD moved the beer off the cart, separating the domestic from the imported. A knock on the door interrupted the work in progress.
Josiah answered it, having stopped setting out bags of chips. Nathan looked up from in the dining room where he was preparing a cracker-and-cheese platter, then came over when one of the hotel's managers entered the room.
"Can I help you?" asked Sanchez.
"Who's in charge?"
Chris walked over. "I am."
"Can we talk, sir? Privately?"
Chris indicated the sitting room, the rest of the Seven staying in the living room. "What's the problem?"
"Well, sir, we have a policy here."
"This is rather uncomfortable, Mr. Larabee, but we noticed you bringing a large amount of alcohol into our hotel through the front lobby."
"Well, we have a policy against alcohol being brought directly into the hotel in such a blatant manner. It will have to go. If we had not seen it come in, you understand, we would not be having this conversation. However, since we did see it, and you are not availing yourself of our services, then we must ask you to remove it."
Chris read between the lines. Since they brought the booze up uncovered, the hotel had grounds to object. So, if the booze went out the front door, yet came back in through a side door and covered, then the hotel would be satisfied. First, he would get the booze out in front of them, then bring it in that side entrance from the garage, and probably kick a little tail along the way on certain members of his team - Buck and JD - not being as discreet as they could be bringing in the packages. However, this apology was going to hurt. "I understand. I apologize for our actions; we were not aware of the policy."
The manager looked relieved that the man across from him comprehended the unspoken message. "I appreciate your cooperation. Hopefully, this will not happen again?"
The manager nodded and left, deciding to wait at the front doors to usher the gentlemen out so that the company policy was satisfied.
Chris stalked over to Buck and JD. "Buck, JD, stack all the booze on the cart, and carry it all outside, right out the front door, so the manager can see it."
"What's going on?" asked Vin.
"Yes, Mr. Larabee, what has brought forth that charming glare of yours?"
"Ezra, shut up and stay on the sofa with your leg up before I give you a permanent limp." Without checking to see if Standish complied, he continued his explanation. "Apparently, we're not allowed to have booze in here."
"I'm beginning to detest the phrase 'shut up'," Ezra mumbled, clearly disgruntled.
"Who's rule is that?"
"What are we going to do?"
"What BUCK AND JD are going to do is take everything out the front, make a show of it, take it off the cart, Nathan and Josiah - you're going with them, and then all four of you are going to go to the side entrance on the fifth floor of the parking garage and carry it in. Without a cart. And do it now." Chris pointed at the door.
"Why?" asked JD. "I mean, if we're bringing it back in, isn't that against the rules?"
"Mr. Dunne, before we are treated to the red-faced anger of our leader, perhaps I could assist. The hotel is of the policy, and correct me if I am wrong, Mr. Larabee, that they do not want to see alcohol brought onto the premises in such a blatant manner, especially without any type of covering or concealment to disguise the contents. Since the spirits came in without camouflage, the hotel was obligated to take action. In this case..."
"What he means is that if they don't see it, there ain't a problem." Vin got to the heart of it in one sentence.
Josiah chuckled, Nathan covered his mouth with his hand, and Buck rolled his eyes.
"That was rude, Mr. Tanner, to cut me of in such a fashion. Before this fiasco begins, I believe I will go change." Ezra managed getting to his feet, Vin supplying the crutches, and the Southerner hobbled out.
The hobbling man stopped. "Yes?"
"I've got a couple men lookin' for a poker game tonight. Told them ta ask fer ya."
The shoulders straightened. "Well, perhaps tonight won't be a total loss. Thank you, Mr. Tanner."
"Yer welcome, Ez." Vin smiled at Standish's back as the man continued on his way.
"Boys, why are you still here?" Chris turned his attention on the four men finishing reloading the luggage cart.
"Leaving now, Chris."
They walked out, closing the door behind them.
Chris dropped into the chair he claimed for his own - it had the softest cushion. Vin dropped into the sofa next to him.
"So much fer peace and quiet before we start."
Larabee looked at his friend and realized the coming night would not be good for Vin. He figured after the announcement in the general session that there would be a lot of people in and out of the suite, and Vin probably would not be able to escape to his room for long periods of time, especially since they were supposed to be working the room. "We're going to dinner."
"We gotta open the room."
"The boys can open the room; we're going for a quiet dinner before we come back to the madness." He checked his watch. "It's only five thirty; we'll have plenty of time to go and come back before it starts anyway."
"Ya don't mind?"
"Hell, no. Not much of a people person myself."
"Really, cowboy? Never thought that about ya; always thought ya were the party animal."
"You want to go to dinner or not?"
"So we wait for them to get back, then we go. As for them, they'll do damage to the platters before they put them out."
Meanwhile, Front Lobby...
The elevator dinged just before it opened, and the cart went out first. The four men followed, Josiah pushing it in front of them. They crossed the lobby, where the manager wore a smile. "You're leaving with that."
"Yes, sir," Buck replied.
"Thank you for being so understanding."
"Not a problem," Wilmington smiled. Once they hit the street, the boys divided up the booze, carrying it out of sight around the side of the hotel. When they reached the parking garage, they took the elevator up to the fifth floor, and carried the booze through the entrance to the main bank of elevators. They continued their journey, Chris opening the door when they knocked.
"It's the Great American Beer Walk!" Buck crowed, putting his cases beside the tubs. Nathan and Josiah disappeared into the kitchen to set up the imports, where they could control them better.
"Boys, we're going to dinner. Be back in time to open this up." Chris announced.
"You're leaving?" asked Nathan, calling from the kitchen.
"Yeah, need some space," said Vin.
That explained it all to them, and they nodded, returning to their tasks.
+ + + + + + +
When Chris and Vin finished their quiet, peaceful dinner, they came upstairs to find the front door to the suite wide open and a good number of people standing around.
"It ain't seven yet." Vin hesitated; disappointed it did not look like he was going to get even a minute to prepare.
"No, but I'm guessing people showed up early. You ready?"
The sharpshooter sighed. "Ready as I'll ever be."
"I'm going to take over the bar - minimal press of people there. You want to join me?"
They entered, finding at least fifty people already milling around the numerous rooms, helping themselves to the buffet set up on the dining room table, taking seats in the sofas and chairs, and getting drinks. Buck and JD worked the bar, while Nathan and Josiah worked the kitchen and dining room, making sure everything was stocked and ready. Ezra, being Ezra, sat at the card table, his leg on a hassock, entertaining a pair of ATF agents out of New York who brought out quantities of cash.
"Hey, Stud, Junior," called Buck from behind the bar. "You wanna take over for a minute? Need to get something out of my room and JD needs to check something. Vin, just fill the cups with ice; I'll be back in a jiffy."
"Yeah." Chris and Vin replaced those two, Vin on the outside closest to the door.
Josiah stepped out of the kitchen and stood by the doorway so that he could get the imports as requested and greet people as they came in.
JD went over to the table and started helping Nathan clean up the empty plates, making sure trash cans stayed within easy range of the diners.
Buck went to his room to use his burn cream so his face would not turn splotchy, red, and itch like it did last night.
Then something strange happened. The place filled with people, to the point that no one could move too far without having to move around someone. The bar stayed hopping, Buck returning quickly and constantly refilling the ice container while Vin set up cups with ice in them. Chris poured the drinks as quick as he could, being careful not to spill anything.
After a couple hours of this, they worked themselves into a finely tuned machine. Josiah alternated between the kitchen and the foyer; Nathan talked to some medical personnel; JD cleaned up; Ezra played poker; and Buck flirted with the females that strolled through the door right to the bar. He and Chris made the majority of the drinks; Vin filled the glasses and took the easy ones when Buck ran for refills on something in the kitchen. The three of them only looked up when they got a request they didn't recognize, otherwise they were almost mechanical in their movements.
This was why no one saw the person and the woman beside her walk up to the bar. Giving the friend a slight wink, the person stopped in front of the blond bartender closest to the wall. "Gimme Wild sex with the bartender."
Three heads shot up, one with a broad smile of greeting.
The woman beside the original requestor laughed at their faces and said, "I'll have a Sexy Blue Eyed Boy."
Chris looked right into the hazel gaze of a smirking training Instructor. "Harper, I should have guessed."
"So am I getting my wild sex with the bartender, or are you here for looks?"
"Darlin', if he won't, I will," teased Buck.
"Ooo, if someone's having the bartender, sign me up." A third woman squeezed her way between the two women. She gave each of them appraising looks. "All of them."
Vin flushed bright red before he recovered with, "Ya wanna tell me yer drink orders again?"
Chris straightened and leaned on the front of the bar. "The bartender's not on the menu, Harper." Green eyes twinkled at her and a smile played on his lips. He remembered that as an Instructor, she would be required to attend conventions like this, and he should not be surprised to see her.
"I didn't ask for the bartender. I asked for Wild sex with the bartender. You know how to do that?"
His smile broadened. "I know I could, but if what you want's a drink, I don't know what goes in it."
The woman in the middle interrupted. "Honey, I can give you ideas!"
With a big smile, Harper said, "Lisa, meet Chris, Buck, and Vin. Boys, this brazen, shameless hussy is Lisa from ATF - Baltimore. She expects me to show her the sights around here. We figured we would stop by so she could meet the Magnificent Seven. Next to her is Rose, also from ATF - Baltimore."
"Seven to go, thanks."
"Lisa!" The woman named Rose hushed her. "Besides, I still want my Sexy Blue Eyed Baby."
"Ladies, look at his eyes; he'll do. Come on, Rose, you can't tell me he doesn't have the prettiest blue eyes you've ever seen."
"I ain't on the menu."
Rose said, "Too bad. Could you make me my drink if I tell you what's in it?"
"I could be on the menu," said Buck.
"Honey, you and I could make some magic during this trip," Lisa teased.
Buck leaned forward to flirt with her. She reciprocated, inching closer together, starting the oldest dance.
Rose smiled at Vin. "Okay, a Sexy Blue Eyed Baby has one ounce each of Blue Curacao, Vodka, Crème de cacao, rum cream liqueur, one scoop of ice cream, and two cubes of ice. Stick it in a blender and blend until smooth. Can you make that for me?"
"Sounds easy enough." Vin grabbed the supplies and slowly poured them one-handed into the blender while they watched. He presented the drink and Rose sighed in appreciation.
"Thank you, cutie." She left five dollars in the 'feed the till for tomorrow night fund'. "Ladies, I see a poker game. Talk to you later."
"Later, Rose," said Harper.
"Sweet pea, now that you're free, make me a gin and tonic, heavy on the gin." Lisa winked at him, her fingers wrapped around Buck's.
"Yes, ma'am. Hey, Larabee, ya gathering wool or makin' the Instructor's drink?"
"I'm waiting for the Instructor to tell me what to do."
"Baby, don't give this one that type of loaded comment. You'll never know what she'll suggest." Lisa swung an arm around Harper. "She's wilder than she acts."
Harper retorted, "I am not. You ready, barkeep?"
"We'll just have to see about that."
He smirked. "Bring it on."
Her grin brightened her face and a wicked gleam came in her eyes. "I'd break you."
"Lady, you want your wild sex or not?"
"Is that an invitation?"
"I'll take it if she doesn't!"
"Shut up, Lisa. Okay, Larabee, let's see what you've got. Half a shot of coconut rum, triple sec, Absolute(tm) Citron, and lime juice. A splash of grenadine, then fill it with 7-Up(tm). Throw some lemon, and then some lime. When you're done with that, throw a splash of Irish cream in the center."
"Match me for a shot of Citron, and I'll say that's it."
"You're on." He made the shots first, handing one to her while Vin continued filling orders. "To your health, Harper."
"To your health, Larabee." They downed their shots, and then he made her mixed drink. He handed it to her with a smirk, wiping his mouth with a napkin. She dropped a twenty into the till and disappeared, dragging Lisa behind her into the crush of people.
"Cowboy, ya wanna go back ta work now that ya had yer refreshment? I ain't doin' this alone." Vin continued his fast pace of filling drink orders, now working harder because of the delay the women caused. His hand seemed sure, even though he did the majority with his sling still in place.
"Up yours, Tanner."
"Kiss my ass, Larabee, and when yer done, start slinging drinks. Wilmington, get yer butt in gear."
The rest of the night passed in a blur, the cleanup occurring when Buck bribed - tipped, he called it - the helpful bellhop to come up with his friends and make sure the place was spotless. They also left with a couple cases of beer out the side entrance, placing it in the bellhop's car so that they could enjoy the rewards of their hard work.
At nine thirty, Chris Larabee received a summons speak with one of the hotel's representatives, giving him a break from working the host's booth and handing out literature on the ATF. When he arrived, he was ushered into the agent's office and asked to take a seat.
"Mr. Larabee, we appreciate your promptness. We have a special request to ask."
"Would you consider allowing us to show a tour of the suite for a prospective customer around three thirty this afternoon? If you don't, it's quite all right; however, we'll just like the opportunity to show it for about five minutes."
He considered, realizing that they were not charging the convention for the eight-thousand-dollar-a-night room, giving it to them free for bringing in around nineteen hundred people. He figured he saw at least half that number last night. "Sure. Is housekeeping going to go through before then? We cleaned, but we'd hate for it to be less than perfect."
"Oh, of course, if you have no objection."
"They know we're hosting the Hospitality room? Plenty of food and drinks?"
"Yes, they are aware of that. They would not mind seeing the room set up for that."
"Fine. Just raise me when you need me to show it."
"I appreciate this, Agent Larabee." They shook hands, parting ways.
Chris reached the booth and found Ezra leaning on his crutches, getting ready to go to another session. "Ezra, I have a job for you."
"I'll take your time in the booth if you'll do me a favor." Chris knew Ezra hated working the booth and handing out literature.
"Continue; I find myself intrigued."
"The hotel wants to show off the suite to some clients. Think you can talk the place up?"
The green eyes flashed in amusement. "I believe I can handle that."
"Great. Three thirty is when they're expected."
"I'll be there at three."
"Housekeeping's going through before they arrive."
They parted, Chris taking over the booth. Around three, Buck came by with JD in tow. "We're going on a run. What else do we need?"
"What's on the list?"
Buck showed him.
"Yeah, that looks fine. Remember, we've got a tour at three thirty."
"Wait until almost four to take the stuff up."
Buck and JD disappeared, and Chris went up to the room around three fifteen to check on things. He found Ezra lounging in one of the chairs, his leg propped up. "Comfortable?"
"Okay, I'll be at the booth if you need me. Let Vin and I know how it goes." He didn't want to leave Vin alone at the booth for too long, even though Josiah and Nathan should be finishing their workshops right about now. Chris left, returning downstairs at three thirty.
Josiah and Nathan came out, and Buck snagged them to help unload the truck with the booze in it. JD stayed behind with Chris and Vin to help with the crush, the last workshop ending and giving people the desire to walk through to pick up information.
At five minutes to four, the agent came running up to Chris. "Agent Larabee, is everything ready?"
"The couple was late. Is everything in the suite ready now? I'm so sorry!"
Chris swallowed his irritation. "Ezra's waiting, and it should be good to go."
"Great!" The agent hurried off, her high heels clicking on the floor toward the elevator. Just then, Chris realized the booze was on the way up to the suite.
"Aw, hell!" said Vin. "The..."
"What's going on?"
Chris started pushing JD toward the elevators. "The alcohol - Buck, Nathan, and Josiah are on their way up with the alcohol, and the tour's going up now."
"Crap!" exclaimed the youngest.
They broke into a quick jog for the elevator, Chris yanking out his cell phone and trying to call Buck just as they stepped into the elevator. The reception cut out because of the way the building was constructed.
"Hell!" muttered Chris. "When we get to the top, do what you have to do to get them off this floor. I'll take the tour. Come up when you know everything's set."
The elevator doors opened, revealing three men struggling with a heavily laden luggage cart, shoving it into another elevator with the down light lit.
"We're on it, Chris," Buck assured him. JD squeezed himself in there, and the doors closed.
Chris continued to the suite, knocking and let in by Ezra. "They here?"
"No, Mr. Larabee. They called about two minutes ago and requested five more minutes."
"May I inquire the problem other than the tardiness?" Ezra made a face at that.
"Booze came up. Just got rid of it."
"That would be a problem."
"Nathan to Chris."
Chris had forgotten about the radio issued by the hotel clipped to his belt; however, he had to be careful because hotel personnel monitored the radio. "Chris."
"The package is now one down."
"I take it the liquor has taken up temporary residency on the floor below us?"
"Wonderful. Where's my drink?" Ezra hobbled over to the bar, pouring himself a straight shot of whiskey. "Care to join me?"
"What do you think?"
"I thought so." He placed a shot on the bar.
Chris walked over and took it, enjoying the taste of it. They stopped at one shot each, eating a handful of mints so they did not reek of alcohol for the tour.
Five minutes later, the tour arrived. The agent showed her excitement, making a point of introducing the two agents. The couple, obviously married, fawned over Ezra and his leg, to which the Southerner played it up to make it so that anyone would be comfortable inside this 'palatial suite'. He continued waxing poetic about the place, hobbling around with them, until he knew the couple would book their convention here. He backed off at that point. JD arrived just in time for the ending of the tour.
The agent continued her gushing. "Well, I'd love to show you the Lounge that's on the floor below us. Do you have time?"
The couple nodded.
Chris and Ezra exchanged worried glances, Ezra's concern hidden in his eyes. JD kept his back to the couple.
"Again, thank you so much for showing this room. We greatly appreciate it. Every time they've come, the room's been booked."
Ezra smiled. "A true delight."
"Hi, nice to meet you," JD greeted them with a hurried apologetic look on his face. "Sorry, but I have an errand to run."
Everyone smiled, exchanged pleasantries, and left. JD started following them to the elevators then saw the stairs immediately on his right. He hit the door, almost leaping down the two sets of cement stairs, and ran out the door to divert his waiting friends.
Panting, Dunne reached the elevator bank and waved them around the corner. Buck, Nathan, and Josiah pushed the cart around the corner just as the elevator dinged and he heard the agent talking about the lounge. The four of them rolled the cart before them down the hallway, away from the lounge, and thankfully, the tour did not turn the corner. When they reached the far bank of windows, Buck broke the silence.
"What's going on?"
"She's showing them the lounge."
"Oh. That's right by the elevator doors," Nathan said.
"So we wait." Josiah leaned against the wall.
After a minute, they could still faintly hear the hotel's booking agent talking. JD decided to sneak up to the corner by the elevator bank and listen. He heard a radio.
"Emerald to Loss Prevention."
"I'm by the Lounge with a tour. I can't find my key for the door. Can you bring me one up?"
"On our way."
JD practically ran on tiptoes down the hallway. "She lost her key to the Lounge. Loss Prevention's coming up."
"Don't they do rounds whenever they are called out?" asked Nathan.
"What are we going to do with this?" Buck patted the full cart. This time, plastic blue bags and garbage bags covered the tops of the boxes and bottles, but the labels printed on the boxes contradicted the meager concealment of the garbage bag.
JD saw something that made him smile. "Stairs. Right there. Move the booze upstairs, then take the empty cart up."
Nathan opened the doors and pulled the cart inside. Between the four of them, they moved all the alcohol up one floor, stacking it neatly by the doors. Since the members of the tour already saw JD, he stayed with the liquor. Bold as brass, the three men swaggered to the elevator bank with their empty cart.
Buck smiled at the agent. "Hello, ma'am." He put a finger to the edge of his cap. "Pleasant day."
"Yes, it is." The agent replied absently.
Nathan shook his head and pushed the button to summon the elevator.
"Hello," she replied, wearing a plastic smile, obviously not remembering them from the host committee of the convention.
"Ma'am," said Josiah. "How do?"
"Oh, we're just enjoying our tour," the female gushed.
"This is a lovely hotel," Josiah replied. They stepped into the elevator, Nathan keeping his face averted so they would not see him grinning. The doors closed, and all three burst into laughter. One floor up and at the entrance to the far stairs, they found JD nervously keeping watch, loaded the alcohol, and pushed it to the suite.
"Looked right into the dragon's maw, boys, and got one over on her."
"Buck, only you could do that," said Nathan.
"Josiah was doing a right good job."
"I was polite." The profiler defended his actions.
"Ha! You were gloating just like me."
"Will you knock it off and get in here with that?" The yell came from the end of the hallway, where one impatient Larabee glared and simply wanted the alcohol inside and away from prying eyes.
They unloaded quickly, Josiah taking the cart down this time. He managed to smile at the Loss Prevention officer as he rode the elevator down with her, not commenting on what the cart contained just minutes before. After that, he helped shut down the booth for the night and everyone returned to the suite.
"Dear Lord, I pray tonight will not be a repeat of last night with the exorbitant number of people."
"Tell me about it, Ez," grumbled Vin. "I ain't tending bar again."
"I'll do it." Nathan volunteered, preferring to sling the booze instead of cleaning it.
"Can I help?"
"Appreciate it, JD."
"Where are we eating tonight?"
"Room Service," said Josiah. "So we all have quiet for this meal."
"Sounds good." Buck found the menus while Nathan wrote up a sign saying the Room would not be open until six. They each made their selections, calling down and pooling money. When it arrived, they ate in peace, and then set up the room for the next round of visitors.
The second night went better than the first, JD learning how to mix drinks using a method that caused Nathan to yell at him each time he heard it. Since Dunne didn't know the first thing about making a drink, he'd hold the bottle up and said, "You tell me when." He quickly shortened this to, "Say when." It made him the hit of the party, a much smaller gathering than the hectic people-press of the night before.
Ezra's poker game was a success, this time netting him some serious players that did not leave until almost one in the morning. Again, the bellhop and his friends helped with the cleanup, and the third day of the convention drew to a successful close.
The fourth day brought about a lightness of heart, for Buck's face healed enough that he could flirt outrageously, Vin's shoulder stopped hurting him enough to take off the sling, Ezra started putting weight on his leg, Josiah's face returned to its normal appearance, and JD stopped babying his wrist. Even Chris stopped sitting on his donut during the down time in the suite.
A knock at the door after the workshops revealed Judge Travis and JD let him in. Ezra enjoyed the stupefied look on his face when he saw the suite.
"I didn't intend for this to be a resort vacation. What happened to observing the gratuity limitation we have in the regulations?"
"We're workin' for it," said Vin. "We watch the suite, make sure nothin' gets broken, and they let us stay here. Babysitters."
"I see. I stopped by to tell you that I'm proud of you; all I've gotten is positive comments about your behavior."
"You expected less?" Chris muttered with a wry smile on his face.
"Actually, yes. But with this to keep you entertained, I guess that's better than..." Travis cut himself off.
"Who got in trouble?" Josiah asked.
Travis made a face. "I'll just say that I expected it to be you boys, not who it was. Drop it."
"Yes, sir," said Nathan. "Anything else?"
"Nope. Have a good time."
He left, and the rest of the convention passed by in a blur. By the end of it, the boys were the darlings of the show, and made several new friends. Buck made a special lady friend out of Lisa during the last night. They didn't find out until they returned to their offices Friday that the person that got in trouble was Harper, along with her two friends Rose and Lisa, for dancing and strip teasing on top of a table drunk in a local bar. This apparently happened after they visited the Hospitality Room and harassed the Seven. All Seven planned to make sure she never lived that down. Overall, they each thought they would never look at conventions the same way again. The best news was that they received clearance to return to full duty, going back to work with a positive attitude because they got a free week's vacation with pay. The only down side: listening to Ezra's complaints about leaving behind the suite and forcibly being removed from his 'natural environment'. They figured they would hear about that for the next few months, especially after the pictures came back from the photo lab. Oh well. Such is life; one minute full of hospitality, one minute not.