Fallen Angels

by LunaDey and Lisa S.

Characters: Seven, Inez, Mary, Orin

Author's Notes: We'd like to thank Sarah for thinking up this great new AU, and allowing us to play in her sandbox. Another big thank you goes to our beta, Antoinette/RiverOtter. Your help and guidance is greatly appreciated. We also would like to thank Sue and Mal for reading over our story/providing comments/suggestions.

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


"Mommy, I'm scared."

"I know, Baby, but you have to wait here." Nora hugged her five-year-old daughter and fought back tears. Abigail had never been afraid of the dark, but this wasn't like being alone in her own bedroom. Abby's tears soaked through her shirt. Nora struggled to be strong and do what had to be done. "Keep the doors locked, and stay in the back seat." She hugged the sniffing child, and laid her down in the back seat. "You just hold tight to Dumbo and close your eyes and go to sleep. I'll be back before you know it."

"Promise?" Abby's big brown eyes could melt the heart of a hardened criminal, and those doe eyes always did a number on Nora's resolve.

"I promise, Peanut. Once I start making some money things will be better again." Nora kissed her daughter's cheek, and tucked the blanket around her. She double-checked that all the doors were locked and left a couple windows cracked about an inch each for some ventilation. At least it got cool at night in the desert, even in the summer. She didn't know what she would have done if she had to work during the day.

She watched as Abby rolled over to face the back of the seat with her stuffed Dumbo held tightly against her chest. "Night, Baby. Sleep tight." She rubbed her daughter's back for a few minutes until she felt her relax in sleep.

Steeling herself, she eased out of the car, and closed the door as quietly as she could. She glanced back at the car as she walked away, torn between the need to be with her child, and the need to earn money for food and someplace to stay. They had been living in the car for nearly a month, and what money they had, had been spent on food and gas for the car so they could move to different places.

Nora was down to her last twenty dollars. She had tried everywhere she could think to get a job, but no one would hire her without a permanent address. She finally found a part time night job, but she didn't dare tell her new boss about Abby or he might change his mind about hiring her.

She walked four blocks to the Royal Flush Casino and Strip Club, forcing herself to keep walking and not look back. She had avoided the parking lot at the casino. There were enough lights around that someone would most likely end up seeing Abby asleep in the car. The thought of some pervert getting to her, or some do-gooder calling the authorities because she'd been left alone, terrified her. Her daughter was all she had left that meant anything to her, and she'd do anything she had to to take care of her. So she had parked closer to the main strip away from the area where the bad element tended to congregate, the area where she was headed now.

Lenny Fritz watched the new girl slip in the door and try to get to the changing room without being seen. He glanced at his watch and scowled when he saw she was ten minutes late. He slithered through the crowd and grabbed her by the arm before she could get through the door.

"You're late!" He glared and tightened his grip.

Nora hissed in pain as his fingers dug into the flesh of her upper arm. "I'm sorry. It won't happen again. I ran out of gas and had to walk the last several blocks."

Lenny pulled her closer until they were almost nose-to-nose. Nora could smell the staleness of his breath when he spoke to her. "It damned well better not happen again. There are other homeless girls out there that would 'appreciate' my help."

"I do appreciate it. I promise. I won't be late again."

He let go of her, but not before he gave one last powerful squeeze that would undoubtedly leave bruises on her arm. "Get in there and get ready."

Nora didn't take time to respond; she rushed into the changing room and once out of sight rubbed her arm. It still throbbed from the force of his grip. She took a deep steadying breath and hurried to the rack of costumes, rushing to pick one out in her size.

"Hey, honey," one of the other women moved up close to her. "I wouldn't take that one if I was you. Lily's claimed it. Why don't you try this one?" She handed Nora a bright red costume covered in sequins and fluffy feathers.

There wasn't much to the costume. She'd seen bikinis with more coverage. "Thank you," Nora said, trying not to let the woman see how scared she was, but she wasn't fooling anyone.

"Honey, it'll be okay. The first time is kinda hard, but when you've done it once, it starts getting easier after that. Just remember if anyone gets hold of you there's a bouncer to take care of them, and don't ever make Lenny mad." The older woman started to turn away but paused. "My name's Lydia. What's yours?"

"Nora. Thank you for helping me."

"That's all right, honey. We were all new here once." She smiled and went back to her own preparations.

Nora tried to find a place that offered a little privacy to change, but there was little chance of that. Deciding it was foolish considering the job she had to do; she finally undressed and put the skimpy costume on. She noticed that the others were heavily made up and tried to act like she knew what she was doing, as she applied more eye make up and lipstick.

It was getting close to her turn on stage so Nora made her way to an area where she could watch the last couple of dancers before her to get an idea of what she was supposed to do. She couldn't remember ever being so nervous in her life.

Before she knew it, she was pushed roughly toward the stage, by a leering Lenny Fritz. "Get out there and shake that pretty little ass of yours."

Nora half stumbled onto the stage and flinched at the sound of the cheers and wolf whistles her entrance caused. Loud suggestive music began to play and the house lights dropped leaving her in a bright spotlight. Cheers turned to jeers when she just stood there frozen.

"Take it off!"

"Come on, baby, show us those tits."

"Get off the stage if you ain't gonna shake it."

Nora wanted to run. She took a couple steps toward the curtain leading off stage, but thoughts of Abby made her stop. She needed the money. She had to get the two of them off the streets; they couldn't keep living in the back seat of their car. She turned back and started to dance.

Lenny growled when the phone rang, dragging his attention from the new girl on stage. She'd started out shaky but had finally reached the point of stripping. She had a great body and the way the men in the audience were drooling over her; she'd be a big draw once she got over her inhibitions. He would just have to spend a little personal time with her, and that would put a stop to that modesty crap.

"''Ello?" Lenny sat up straighter, and glanced around; relaxing slightly when he saw no one was listening. "Yeah, boss?"

He frowned as he listened, glancing at Nora as she finished her dance. At least she'd gotten her top off. "But boss, she'll do good here after she's been up there a couple times." He held the phone slightly away from his ear when the voice blasted through from the other end. "No boss, I ain't tryin' to tell you how to run things. Just thought she'd . . ." Lenny winced and jerked the phone farther away. "What ever you say. I'll take care of it."

He hung up the phone, yanked the door open to the changing room, and smirked when Nora attempted to cover herself with the tee shirt she'd been ready to put on. "Bit late for that. I already seen what you got to offer." Reaching out, he pulled the shirt out of her hands.

Nora hung her head, embarrassed by Lenny leering at her bare breasts, but she made no further move to cover herself.

"Boss wants to see you," Lenny tossed her shirt back at her. "Get dressed." He leaned back against the wall and waited, watching her change. When she was dressed he took her by the arm and pulled her with him. One of the club's bouncers waited by the back door and fell into step with them as they started out the door.

"Wait! Where are we going?" Nora tried to pull away but just ended up causing them both to take a firmer hold on her.

"Like I said. Boss wants to see you."

"But, I can't go anywhere. There's someone I have to meet." She struggled harder, despite the crushing force on both of her arms.

"Well, you ain't going to be keeping any appointments but one." Lenny shoved her into a big black car at the curb. The windows were tinted so dark that it was impossible to see who was inside. When she stumbled and ended up sprawled across the seat, Lenny laughed as he climbed in beside her.

Nora screamed just as the bouncer started the engine, blocking out part of the sound. She struggled until Lenny grabbed her by the throat.

"Shut up! You keep that up and you won't even make it to the boss." He squeezed tighter. "You understand me?"

A feeble nod was all Nora could manage, but he got the message and relaxed his grip. She sat back gasping as the car started to pick up speed. It took a few moments for her to realize they were going down the same street she had parked her car on.

The car slowed at an intersection and gave Nora a plan. The next time the car stopped for a stop sign, she was ready for it. Grabbing the door handle, she jumped out before the car came to a full stop and raced toward her car, parked less than half a block away.

"Son-of-a-bitch!" Lenny lunged out of the car and raced after her. "Get back here!'

Nora didn't risk looking back; she was nearly to the car. She reached in her jeans pocket for her keys. She bounced against the car when she stopped, fumbled through the ring of keys for the door key and dropped them in her haste.

Hands of steel grabbed her from behind and tried to drag her back up the street. "Stop kicking, Bitch!" Lenny tried to pry Nora's fingers loose from the door handle of the car, but she had a death grip on it. "Let go!"

"NO!" She sobbed and frantically clung to the handle, still kicking out behind her, occasionally connecting with Lenny's shins. "LET GO OF ME!"

Motion inside the car caught her attention. Abby's terror filled eyes looked back at her. "Please don't do this!" she pleaded.

The bouncer had moved on up through the intersection, stopped the car next to the struggling pair, and jumped out to help his boss. He hit Nora's fingers where they still gripped the handle, causing her to scream and let go. It took only a few more seconds to shove her back into the car.

As the big black car pulled away, Nora got a fleeting glimpse of Abby's face and hands pressed against the window of their car. The fight left her. She slumped back in the seat, horrified at the thought of her precious girl being left along, and gave in to the tears that streamed down her face.

Abby pulled the blanket up around her and huddled in the back seat of the car. Her mommy had told her to stay in the car and keep the doors locked, but her mommy had been gone a long, long time. The mean man that had made her get in his car had not brought her back. What was she supposed to do? She wanted to do as she was told and wait in the car, but young as she was she sensed something was wrong.

Slowly she got up on her knees so she could look out the window. It was really dark out there, but when she looked in the direction the black car had gone she could see a lot of lights in the distance. She hugged Dumbo and waited for several more minutes.

She really needed to go potty. They always parked somewhere where they could go to a gas station but she looked around and there wasn't one anywhere she could see. Her stomach rumbled and she puckered up, ready to cry.

Abby couldn't wait any longer. Pulling up the lock on the door she laid Dumbo on the seat until she could squat by the car to pee. Where was her mommy? She looked around and decided she needed to find a policeman. "Come on, Dumbo." She picked up her stuffed toy and wrapped her blanket around herself to ward off the chill of the desert night. "We gotta find a policeman. Mommy always says if you get lost look for a policeman. I think Mommy's lost."

Barefoot and in her PJs, with the blanket trailing the ground behind her, Abby set off toward the place where she could see all the lights.

Hospitality Host Buck Wilmington had just finished handling a rather difficult and demanding whale when he ran into his good friend and one of the members of Montecito's security force, JD Dunne.

"Hey JD, heard there was a little commotion out by the pool," stated Buck as the two men walked through the lobby.

"Yea, was just returning from there," said JD. "Seems a parachuting Elvis got caught in the crosswinds or something, anyway he landed right in the adult pool."

"Elvis?" repeated Buck who suddenly had visions of his undercover assignment dressed as the King of Rock n' Roll.

"Impersonator of course. I guess a group of them were jumping out of a plane for some publicity stunt," explained JD. "Anyway, it caused quite a scene . . ."

"I can imagine," replied Buck. "Where is he now?"

"Nathan's checking him out," replied JD. "Make sure he's ok. The man couldn't swim . . . one of the lifeguards had to pull him out of the pool."

Buck nodded as he suddenly recognized a former colleague causing him to pause in his tracks. "Hey JD, I've got to run . . . will catch you later, ok?"

"Sure thing," said the young computer specialist as he headed off in the direction of the Security office.

Meanwhile Buck made his way to the pretty brunette who was standing at the registration desk. As he got closer he said, "I must be in heaven 'cause there's an angel standin' before me."

The young woman immediately recognized the voice and she turned with a smile on her lips. "Buck Wilmington," said Nicole Sparks as she found herself enveloped in a big hug. "I see you haven't changed a bit."

"And I see you are still as gorgeous as ever," replied Buck as their hug ended and he took a step back to look at her. Nicole Sparks was a former FBI colleague and good friend who was now happily married with a young son. He considered her like a younger sister. When they were working together at the Bureau he teased her like any big brother would do and took it upon himself to meet and approve all her prospective beaus. It was Buck who had introduced her to her now husband, Phillip and it was Buck who was the Godfather to their son, Cory.

"You're still a silver-tongued devil," commented Nicole as she smiled, happy to see her good friend. It had been several years since they had seen each other although they did routinely keep in touch by phone and email. When she had found out on short notice she had a meeting in the Bureau's Las Vegas office, she decided she would surprise her old friend and show up where he worked.

"So, what are you doing here? I didn't realize you were gonna be in town," stated Buck, casually slipping his hands in the front pockets of his slacks.

"Got called to attend a meeting at the Bureau's office," stated Nicole. "It was rather short notice so I thought I'd surprise you."

"Oh you definitely did," replied Buck. "How long are you in town for? Where are you stayin'? You know you're welcome to stay with me . . . I do have a guest bedroom although it doesn't get used much. . ."

Nicole grinned as she replied, "A couple days and I'm stayin' here . . . thought I'd get to see you more if I stayed where you worked." Hooking her arm through his, she asked, "So, how about if you escort me up to my room and then buy me dinner?"

"I'd love to," replied Buck. "You know Chris will be happy to see you . . . maybe I can talk him into joining us and we can get caught up . . . you can tell me how Phillip and that little godson of mine is doing."

"I'd love to," replied Nicole as the two entered the elevator and headed up to her floor.

It was late, and most of the gamblers had gone to their rooms, all but the die-hards. It was the time of the night when the night cleaning crew was starting the job of clearing away the detritus left after a busy day.

Abby sniffed and wiped her nose on the edge of her blanket. She pressed her face against the cold glass in the door and looked inside but didn't see anyone around. It didn't look like the same kind of place where her mommy worked. This place looked nice. Leaning her full weight on the glass door, she managed to open it far enough to slip inside the Montecito.

The soft sound of her bare feet slapping on the polished tile got lost in the noise coming from the casino. The few slot machines still in play dinged and chimed, and the last few patrons playing blackjack and craps were still boisterous in their excitement.

Abby paused and watched the activity in the casino, unsure whom she should trust. She didn't see anyone who looked like a policeman. Her lower lip quivered, dimpling her chin, as she struggled to stay brave.

The sound of her rumbling tummy brought her attention to the smell of food. She padded past the casino entrance and soon found herself standing outside Mystique. The club was empty except for a pretty lady who was busy looking around the tables.

Inez was nearly finished inspecting the club, a ritual she performed every night. She had a good staff, but if she didn't keep them on their toes they could get lax in their duties.

As she got to the tables by the window to the concourse, movement outside caught her attention. At first she thought she had been imagining things, but a closer look, and she knew she hadn't flipped out. A small child watched her from the other side of the glass.

Inez smiled and turned to slip out the door. Out in the concourse, she watched the child press her face against the glass, trying to get a better view.

"Are you looking for me?" Inez felt awful for startling the little girl, and quickly knelt down near her. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. Are you all alone, little one?"

She watched Abby struggle with the decision of whether she should talk to her or not. "Sweetie, I won't hurt you. I work here." Slowly, so as not to startle the girl again, she reached out a hand to her.

Abby looked at the extended hand, and then back up to study Inez's face. Tentatively, she took a step toward Inez.

"Where's your mommy and daddy?"

Abby dropped her gaze to the floor and sniffed as her nose began to run again. Grabbing the edge of the blanket, she wiped her nose on it. Finally, she looked Inez in the eyes, and her voice was barely audible. "I think my mommy got lost."

"She did?"

The curly haired brunette head bobbed up and down.

"Do you know where she was before she got lost?" Inez opened her arms, sensing the girl was on the verge of crying.

Abby nodded. "The mean man made her get in his car."

Inez's heart dropped to the pit of her stomach. "Where were you?"

"Sleeping." Tears started to pool in her big brown doe eyes. "Mommy had to work, and I had to sleep in the car."

Abby's stomach growled.

"Honey, you come with me, and I'll get you something to eat."

The mention of food uprooted Abby from the spot where she had been standing just out of reach. She moved quickly into Inez's outstretched arms, and Inez picked her up to carry her inside Mystique.

Sitting the child on a table in the kitchen so she wouldn't be left alone while Inez cooked, Inez grabbed a skillet and some eggs. She tossed some bread in a toaster, and when it popped up, she buttered it and put it on a plate with the eggs she had scrambled.

Carrying the plate in one hand, she scooped up the small girl with her free arm and balanced her on her hip. In the dining area, she headed for the table near the window, in case a frantic parent happened to be out looking for their missing offspring.

"How about a glass of milk with that?"

Inez went to get them both a glass of cold milk and was surprised to see how much of the food had been eaten in the short time she'd been away from the table. "Goodness, you were hungry." She sat the milk down next to the plate and watched the rest of the food disappear, to be quickly followed by the milk. Inez pushed the second glass of milk that she hadn't touched across the table.

"Who might your guest be?" Ezra asked as he let himself into the club and walked over to join them.

"I was just going to see if I could find out. She says her mommy is lost."

"What's your name, sweetheart?" Ezra's smile could charm a female of any age.


"Well, hello Abby." He reached out and made a production of taking hold of her hand and bowing slightly. "My name is Ezra, and this beautiful lady is Inez."

Abby giggled at Ezra's formality, easing some of the tension surrounding them. She watched as he took a seat across from her next to Inez's chair.

"Do you suppose you could scare up a cup of coffee?" His eyes gave away how tired he was, as he blinked frequently tried to keep his eyes open. "I would be most appreciative."

"Si. It will not take long to fix some." She patted the girl's hair as she passed her. "Would you like something else to eat?"

The offer of more food surprised Abby. It had been a long time since she had had all she wanted to eat. Tentatively, she nodded, and when she saw Inez smile, she nodded a little more vigorously.

"I'll be right back." She looked back toward Ezra before leaving. "Would you like something to eat too?"

"Dear lady, my stomach would be most grateful. I'll have some of whatever our little guest is having."

Abby watched Inez leave the room, and then turned back toward Ezra. She was not sure how much to trust him, and he did not look like a policeman either.

"Darlin', Inez tells me that your mother is missing." Ezra spoke softly, leaning slightly toward her. "Can you tell me what happened?"

"Are you a policeman? Mommy says I shouldn't talk to strangers except for policemen." Abby watched him. He looked nice, and she wanted to trust him.

"No, I'm not a policeman, but I am with security. That's sort of like a policeman." He was unprepared for the sudden change in the girl's demeanor.

Abby slipped off her chair and before Ezra realized what was happening, she was on his lap clinging to the front of his Armani suit.

He slipped his arms around her small frame. She sniffed and Ezra quickly grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket before she could turn and rub her drippy nose on his suit jacket. "There now . . . everything will be all right. Just tell me what happened."

"The bad men made Mommy get into a car."

"Do you know where you were when this happened?"

Abby leaned in even closer to him, feeling safer than she had in a long time. "Sleeping."

Inez rejoined the pair at the table, carrying a large tray full of plates filled with scrambled eggs and toast. There was more milk for Abby and coffee for the grown-ups. Once everything had been passed out, she took a seat in the chair Abby had vacated.

"She was telling me that she had been sleeping in the car while her mommy went to work, and then some men forced her mother into a car and drove off."

"Do you know where your car is?" Ezra grasped for any bit of relevant information he could get.

Abby shook her head no.

"I think we need to call in the cavalry." Ezra keyed his headset to get Chris to respond. He waited for the phone to be picked up on the other end before starting to explain. "Chris, we have a problem. . ."

Wickes was in his office, monitoring the live video feeds from the strip club as well as all the private rooms here at The King's Court brothel. The strip club was located in Las Vegas but the brothel was located in Pahrump, Nevada, which was just a little over sixty miles from the strip. It was his way to keep an eye on all his ladies to make sure they kept the customers happy. He ran a very tight operation, and he quickly dealt with any of the girls who did not do as they were told. He also prided himself on his motto to his clients - "If you ain't happy then I ain't happy." And he ensured his clients were always very happy and satisfied when they left, 'cause if they weren't then they wouldn't come back and repeat business was a necessity in his line of work.

Lenny was due to arrive with the newest girl for The King's Court. He had seen her on the live feed and immediately knew she would be perfect for the establishment in Pahrump plus she had no family so there was no one to miss her. A late dinner had been delivered and set up, it was the least he could do when he welcomed Nora to the fold.

A light tap on the door signaled they had arrived and Wickes said, "Come in."

Lenny entered with Nora, his hand tightly around her upper arm to keep her from running. She looked around the room and noticed the big man who must have been the boss seated behind the desk. He was bald with a gray moustache and smile that looked more evil than friendly.

"Ahh Nora," said Wickes as he stood to greet his guest. "So glad you could join me . . . I had requested Lenny to bring you here . . . had wanted to meet with you."

Lenny ushered Nora to one of the chairs at the small table laden with food and said, "Sit" while Wickes made his way over and took a seat across from her. With a nod of his head, Lenny left the room, leaving the boss with the young woman.

"I thought you might be hungry so I asked that they prepare a late dinner for us," said Wickes. "I hope you don't mind."

Nora glanced down at the spread of food that was for them, her stomach growling reminding her she hadn't eaten anything all day.

"Where am I? Who are you?" asked Nora. She knew the drive out here took about an hour but she had no idea where she was.

"You're at The King's Court," said Wickes as he picked up his fork and gestured for her to join him in eating. "Please join me . . . I do hate to eat alone." Slowly she followed his lead, picking up the utensil and he continued, "And I am Wickes, the owner of this fine establishment and The Royal Flush."

"Sir, I do appreciate that you want to meet with me but I can't stay," said Nora in between bites of food. She desperately wanted to get back to her daughter who was all alone waiting in their car. "I do need to get back to Vegas. . ."

"We can discuss your return to Vegas after we eat," said Wickes as he smiled. "I do hate to ruin a good meal."

Nora nodded while taking a sip of her water; she didn't believe him, noticing his smile did not quite reach his eyes.

"Now where were we?" said Wickes after taking a drink of his whiskey. "Oh, yes, I had heard about your situation . . . about how you are down on your luck at the moment . . . homeless . . . and I do believe I could help."

"How so?" asked Nora who was starting to feel a little lightheaded and decided it must have been the stress of the evening.

"Well, I have an offer to make," said Wickes who had finished eating. "Stay here and work and you'll make twice as much as you would have at the club."

Nora shook her head 'no' as she said, "I can't do that . . . I told you I need to get back to Vegas." She stood quickly and the room began to spin. A moment later, she collapsed on the floor.

Wickes shook his head, this one was a spitfire, luckily he had figured she would cause him problems and had her water drugged. Smiling he thought, he will definitely have fun breaking her in and she was going to make an excellent addition to his brothel. He whistled and the door to his office opened and one of his bouncers entered. Standing he said, "Take her to her room and lock the door. I don't want her going anywhere."

The man nodded as he effortlessly lifted the drugged woman from the floor and left.

Returning back to his desk, he flipped a button and the wall panel opened to reveal all of his live feed monitors. It looked like business was very busy this evening, noticing all his ladies were with clients. Sitting back in his chair, he decided he would have another little chat with Nora tomorrow and persuade her to join his flock.

It was late, real late, and Buck, Chris, and Nicole were at the Montecito's Twenty-One Café. Luckily the restaurant was open 24-hours where guests could get quick and delicious food. Buck and Chris were enjoying a very late dinner, finding that neither had a chance to grab something to eat earlier due to their busy schedules, while Nicole joined them just to catch up on old times. As the two men finished off their meals, Chris heard the distinct sound of Ezra's voice in his earpiece requesting he call him on his cell.

"'What's up?" asked Chris as he responded to Ezra and listened as the Pit Boss filled him in on the situation at Mystique. "We'll meet you at Security in five minutes," stated Chris before the ended their conversation.

"What's happening?" asked Buck who was more than curious as to what was going on.

"Seems there's a lost girl at Mystique . . . Inez found her," replied Chris as he placed his cloth napkin on his finished dinner plate. "She's saying some men took her mommy."

"Some men took her mother?" repeated Buck as his brow furrowed in concern. "Where? Here at the Montecito?"

"I don't know," replied Chris. "But I plan to find out."

"Do you mind if I tag along?" asked Nicole who had been silent during the exchange between the two men. "Maybe there's something the FBI can do to help."

"Not at all," replied Chris. "Hopefully this is all a huge misunderstanding and we'll find this little girl's mother but if not, it'll be good to have the FBI's help. . ."

Buck placed some bills on the table to pay for the meals and then they headed out of the café. As the three of them arrived at the entrance to the security office they found themselves also joined by the on-call physician Nathan Jackson.

"Got a call from Inez about a little girl," explained Nathan and Chris nodded.

When the three men and Nicole walked into the surveillance room, Vin and JD looked up from their monitors.

"They just arrived and are in the conference room," stated Vin, they had received a heads up from the Pit Boss on the situation and that they would be meeting the others there.

Chris nodded as the group of them headed into the conference room.

Abby had been sitting in one of the chairs next to Ezra, tightly holding her blanket and her stuffed elephant but when the group of people entered the room, she quickly moved off her chair and into Ezra's lap. The little girl had gotten so attached to the Pit Boss that she wouldn't leave his arms on the way to the Security Offices.

"It's all right, Abby," said Ezra trying to calm the little girl's fears. "These are my friends I was telling you about . . . they're here to help you. . ."

Chris stepped forward, squatting before her and smiled. "Hi Abby, my name is Chris and this is Buck, Nathan, and Nicole."

"Are you a policeman?" asked the little girl as she looked back at the Security Chief with her big brown eyes.

"Sort of," replied Chris. "And Nathan here is a doctor." Chris paused for a moment as the physician stepped forward and smiled reassuringly at the little girl and said hi.

"I'm not sick," declared the little girl.

"Well, that's good," said Nathan. "But I'm here just to make sure you're ok. Are you hurt anywhere?"

Abby shook her head 'no' as she replied, "No, but the bad men took my Mommy . . . she was crying . . . I think they hurt her."

"Abby, I promise you we'll do everything we can to find your Mommy, ok?" stated Chris. The little girl reminded him so much of his son he lost and he would do everything in his power to make sure she was reunited with her Mother.

Nathan had slipped out of the conference room once he had confirmed the little girl was fine. "I'm gonna be in Chris' office making a couple phone calls," he said to Vin and JD.

Vin nodded in acknowledgement.

A few minutes later and Nathan finally emerged from the office. Rubbing the back of his neck in an attempt to work out the kinks, he headed back to the conference room, stopping at the entrance, he caught Chris' attention and motioned he needed to see him.

"I'll be right back," said Chris as he left Abby talking with Ezra, Buck, and Nicole.

"Did you get through to social services?" asked Chris as he met Nathan out in the hallway, the two men walking toward the security bullpen area.

The doctor nodded as he explained, "I did but they're swamped . . . they won't be able send someone out for several hours or more . . . they asked if we can keep an eye out on her until they can get here."

Chris nodded. "Shouldn't be much of a problem," said Chris. "It looks like she's made a few friends in the short time she's been here. . ."

"I think we should call the local hospitals to see if any young women have been admitted," suggested Nathan.

Chris nodded as he replied, "Agreed. We also need to check with the LVPD to see if they took any calls tonight that might be her mother."

"Might want to check with Reception to see if anyone matching Abby's mother's description is staying here at the Montecito," suggested Vin who had overheard the two men's' conversation.

Chris nodded as he asked, "Vin, JD, would you keep an eye out on Abby while we make some calls?"

"Sure thing," said JD who stood from his chair.

Meanwhile back in the conference room, Abby was introducing Buck, Ezra, and Nicole to her stuffed elephant.

"What's his name?" asked Buck. "Barney?"

"No," replied Abby as she giggled. "Barney's a purple dinosaur. His name is Dumbo."

"Oh . . . Dumbo, well, it's very nice to meet you," said Buck as he shook the stuffed animal's long nose.

Abby picked up her stuffed elephant and put him close to her ear as if she was listening to what he was saying. Finally she declared, "Dumbo likes you . . . but he says you have a funny moustache."

"A funny moustache?" repeated Buck with a look of shock on his face.

"Well, he is correct," chimed Ezra as Nicole nodded and continued, "You do have a funny moustache." Their antics caused the little girl to giggle.

Vin smiled at the shy little girl, standing there clutching her stuffed toy. His heart went out to her. He had grown up without parents, and he hoped they were able to keep this little sweetheart from having to go through the same kind of life he had.

"Abby, do you want to sit up here with me?" he asked her as he scooted his chair back to make room for her on his lap. She hesitated a moment, but finally allowed him to lift her to his lap. Vin could feel the tension in her, and he was aware that he was a total stranger to her.

He wrapped one arm around her slender shoulders, giving her a gentle squeeze. "You know what? I bet if we ask really nice we could get JD to bring us some milk and cookies."

Abby relaxed a little more against his shoulder. "I like cookies."

"Me too." He rubbed her back gently as he spoke to her. "Why don't you ask JD, 'could we have some cookies please?'"

Abby craned her neck around to look over her shoulder toward JD. "Could we have some cookies, please?"

"Your wish is my command." JD made an exaggerated sweeping bow and took her hand to kiss the back of it, causing Abby to giggle.

JD disappeared down the hall to the main casino floor and Vin pointed him out to Abby on the monitors. They watched as he ducked into an all-night gift shop and raided the cookie aisle, but they looked at each other and frowned when he left the shop and did not retrace his steps through the casino.

"Where's he going?" Abby asked her smile fading.

"Why don't we just watch and see?"

Abby twisted around on his lap so she could face the screens and watched JD, or perhaps it was the cookies, making their way farther from the surveillance room. At last, he turned into another door.

Vin switched the view on the screen to the inside of the shop, and they watched as JD ordered a pitcher of milk. This time when he left the shop he turned back the way he had come. The closer he got, the more excited Abby became, and by the time he was headed back up the hall leading off the casino floor she was practically bouncing on Vin's lap.

JD made one last detour on his way up the hall. A quick stop in their break room yielded three coffee cups, the heavy crockery kind that are hard to knock over.

"Did you miss me?" JD grinned from ear to ear when he popped back into the room and saw the grinning child watching the door expectantly.


Vin winced at the sheer volume of the child's voice. "I think she thought you were going to keep all the cookies for yourself for a minute."

JD glanced at the monitors and understood immediately. "Were you spying on me?" He pretended to look shocked.

Abby giggled.

After setting down the snacks, JD crossed his arms in front of him and looked at her with a serious expression. Brows furrowed and frowning, he went to stand right in front of her. "You know what we do to spies around here?"

The giggles stopped and Abby leaned closer to Vin for reassurance. Meekly, she shook her head no, and watched him wide-eyed.

JD stepped closer to her and leaned down to eye level. "We tickle them!" As he spoke, he reached out to tickle her ribs causing her to squeal and squirm as she laughed uncontrollably.

"You ready for some cookies?" he asked after he let Abby catch her breath. He poured each of them a cup of milk and sat the bag of Oreos between them.

Vin helped her get turned around so she could face JD, and the cookie bag. "You have to be really careful not to spill the milk,' he warned her.

JD opened the bag and handed Abby a cookie and watched her stare at it. "Don't you like Oreos?" She shrugged. "Have you ever had them before?"

"No. Mommy got me a box of animal cookies sometimes."

"Then you are in for a big treat." Vin took a cookie, dunked it in his milk and took a big bite of it."

Abby followed his example, a look of pure pleasure on her face when she tasted that first chocolaty bite.

"Good?" JD grinned when Abby nodded her head enthusiastically. "I thought you would like them, but you know, Vin doesn't know how to eat them right." He took a cookie of his own and twisted the top crunchy layer off of it so he could lick the frosting in the middle. "Now that's the right way to eat an Oreo."

"He's nuts, Abby. Everyone knows you dunk an Oreo." He emphasized his point by dunking his again.

"Don't knock what you haven't tried," JD countered, as he twisted the top off of a cookie for Abby. "Here try this."

Her eyes lit up when she tasted the sweet frosting in the middle, but the dark cookie by itself caused her to wrinkle her nose a little.

Vin grinned when he saw her go back to his dunking technique. "See! I told you that you were doing it wrong. There's proof!" He pointed at the child on his lap. "She agrees, the best way to eat an Oreo is to dunk it."

JD frowned and stuck his tongue out at Vin, before proceeding to take apart another cookie.

Half a bag of Oreos later, Abby leaned against Vin's chest yawning and rubbing her eyes. He wrapped his arms around her and felt her relax against him. "How about we find someplace so you can go to sleep." He felt her nod her head.

"JD, call down to housekeeping and see if someone can bring up a blanket and a pillow for her, will ya?"


Abby squirmed a little and lifted her head to look up at Vin. "I gots to go potty."

"Hop down and I'll show you where to go." Vin took her hand and led her down the hall to the ladies' room. "I'll wait here for you," he said as he opened the door for her.

A couple minutes later the heavy door cracked open, and he helped her open it far enough to get out. "Did you remember to flush?"

Abby stopped and stared up at Vin, mouth agape like she was looking at a her stuffed Dumbo come to life.

"What is it?" Vin squatted down in front of her. "Is something wrong?"

"Mommy. . ."

"What about your mommy?"

"Mommy works in a potty house."

"A potty house?" Vin cocked his head sideways, shaking his head and frowning. "I don't know what you mean." He tried to think of where this revelation could have come from. He ran his thought about his last comments to her, and finally it struck him. "Flush? Does it have something to do with flush?"

Abby nodded. "She works at the flush place."

"Sweetheart, you might have just helped us find your mommy." Vin picked her up and carried her back into the control room, where he sat her in his chair at the console. "I'll be right back. Stay with JD a minute."

JD watched his friend hurry away and shrugged. "Someone will be here in a few minutes with a blanket and pillow so you can get some sleep." He pointed to the stuffed toy under her arm. "I bet Dumbo is getting sleepy too."

Vin opened the conference room door without knocking. "Flush!"

"What?" Chris glared across the table at the interruption.

"The place where Abby's mother was working has Flush in the name?" Vin explained.

"And how did you come across this tidbit of information," Ezra asked.

"From Abby. I took her to the bathroom. When I asked her if she remembered to flush, she remembered it."

"That will definitely help us narrow the search." Nicole started looking over the list of business names in the area. "There's still a lot of places that have the word flush in their names though."

"We'll just have to find a way to narrow it down." Chris nodded his thanks to Vin, who nodded back and pulled the door closed behind him as he left to go back to get Abby settled down to sleep.

The housekeeper had just dropped off the bedding when Vin got back to the surveillance room, and Abby's eyes were drooping shut. "Come on, Sweetheart. Let's get you settled down somewhere." He thought about the possibilities, and eventually decided that the couch in Chris' office would be best. It would be comfortable, and quiet.

He carried the child up the steps to Chris's glassed in office, and sat her on one end of the couch while he doubled the blanket and tucked it in the crease at the back of the cushions so it would stay in place. Flipping back the top half of the cover, he put the pillow in place and picked up the sleepy child again and hugged her before laying her down and pulling the cover over her.

"Will you be okay up here by yourself? JD and I will be right down there." He pointed out the window and down to the console where JD sat.

Abby nodded and pulled Dumbo closer, and she was asleep almost instantly.

Vin stood and watched her for a couple of minutes before heading back to work. He paused a moment and turned off the overhead light, checking to be sure there was enough light from the main control room for her if she woke up.

"She all settled?" JD asked.

"Yeah. She's asleep already. Poor kid." Vin settled into his seat with a sigh. "We have to do something to find her mother."

Wickes was in his office, leaning back in his chair smoking his cigar as he watched his girls on the live feed cameras with their clients. It looked like it was a busy night at The King's Court, he thought with a twisted smile on his lips as he calculated in his head how much money they were going to take in. Deciding it was time to discuss the "business" with the new girl, Nora, he called the head bouncer, Jon.

"Jon, bring the new girl to my private quarters," he instructed as he stood and made his way to the connecting door that led to his private room. "It's time we got to know each other a little better."

"Will do, boss," said Jon as he quickly headed to retrieve the new girl. One thing Jon knew was when the boss wanted something he wanted it right now and if he didn't get it, all hell would break loose.

Lydia had just finished entertaining a client when she got a knock on her door.

"Lydia, the new girl needs you," said Jon through the door.

Lydia grabbed her robe and quickly stood. If Big Jon was getting her it only meant one thing. Nora didn't listen to Wickes and was injured and needed medical assistance and since the doctor only came out to The King's Court once a week, she was it. Grabbing the small medical bag she kept in her closet she hurried out of the room and followed Big Jon.

Lydia found a crying Nora lying on her bed in her room.

"Awww honey," she said as she rushed to her bedside. "It'll be ok." She soothed her long hair from her face, her gaze taking in the nasty bruises on her cheek and swollen lip.

Nora flinched away, not wanting to be hurt anymore. With water-filled eyes she looked up to see who it was, her gaze immediately recognizing her from the strip joint. "Lydia! We met at The Royal Flush."

Lydia nodded as she replied, "Yes, honey, I work at both places." Lydia was the only girl Wickes would allow to work in both locations. There was still the risk that she might try to run when she was at The Royal Flush but Wickes ensured she didn't by threatening to hurt the other girls if she did and Lydia just couldn't let that happened. She cared about the other girls too much to see one of them hurt because of what she did.

"Now let's get you cleaned up some, ok?" said Lydia softly. Nora nodded and Lydia smiled as she turned to open her medical bag.

As Lydia tended to Nora's wounds, she asked, "So, what happened?"

"Wickes . . . he wanted me . . ." started Nora as her eyes filled with tears remembering the scene. "I had said no and fought back and he got mad."

Lydia nodded in understanding. One thing she knew was to never get Wickes mad and never turn him down. If you did either, you would face his wrath.

The injured girl continued, "I don't belong here . . . this is a horrible mistake . . ."

"And me and the other girls belong here?" asked Lydia softly.

Nora shook her head as she replied quietly, "No, it's just . . . I was only suppose to work at The Royal Flush."

"Honey, that's how we all got here," said Lydia as she lightly dabbed Nora's swollen lip. "We all started at the strip joint and then we were brought here."

"I need to get out of here," stated Nora. "There's gotta be a way to escape."

Lydia shook her head as she replied quietly, "Wickes is smart . . . he's got his goons watching the place and makin' sure none of the ladies leave . . . if you try, you'll be punished or worse. . ."

A shiver went up Nora's spine as she declared, "I've got to try . . . I need to get back to Vegas. . ."

"What's so urgent about gettin' back to Vegas?" asked Lydia.

"I can't say," replied Nora softly as she looked away. She was afraid. Afraid to trust Lydia. Afraid that Wickes would find out about her daughter.

Lydia saw the uncertainty and fear in her eyes and said quietly, "Honey, you can trust me . . . I won't tell anyone."

Nora studied Lydia for a moment and sensing the older woman was being sincere and honest, she said in a soft voice, "I have a daughter . . . she's five years old . . . and she's all alone out there . . . I need to get back to her. I need to find her."

Her soft admission surprised Lydia. This was the first time she had heard where Wickes and Lenny grabbed a girl who had family or children that would be looking for them.

"A daughter?" repeated Lydia in a whisper.

Nora nodded as she repeated, "I need to get back to her. She's all alone out there."

"Maybe I can do something when I go to The Royal Flush this evenin'," suggested Lydia.

"Would you?" asked Nora in a whispered voice as a flicker of hope appeared in her eyes. "Oh please find Abby . . ."

Lydia nodded as she replied, "I'll see what I can do. . ." It will be difficult, she thought. They usually keep a close eye on all the dancers but maybe, just maybe, she can somehow do something. . .

When the older woman returned to her room, she started thinking about Nora and her daughter and how this might be the opportunity for them to get out of this horrible situation. Hopefully someone will come looking for Nora was her last thought before drifting off to sleep.

It was in the wee hours of morning, the group of men working later than their normal shift hours in hopes of finding any information on Abby's mother. JD took a sip of his high-octane coffee as he carefully combed through all the surveillance footage to find exactly when the little girl arrived at the Montecito and if possible from what direction.

"I think I found something," he said out loud causing a group to form around his monitor. "Here's Abby arriving at the Montecito . . . from the outside camera footage it looks like she came from the west."

"What hotels and clubs are in that area?" asked Chris. "Taking into account that she probably didn't walk too far."

Vin punched in the search parameters into keyboard that displayed a map of the area. A moment later he said, "Here's a list of the nearby hotels and clubs."

"Any of them with the word 'Flush' in the name?" asked Chris.

"There's the 'Royal Flush'," commented Vin. "It's in the right direction and the name fits. . ."

"True, how can we find out if that is indeed the right place?" asked Chris.

"We'll need to send a man in," commented Buck. "Get inside and see if she's there or if anyone knows her . . ."

"I could go in," suggested Ezra. "See if I could secure myself a position at their establishment."

"No offense, Ezra, but I doubt you'll get in," said Chris. "It's a strip club . . . so unless you want to try for a job as a bouncer or bartender. . ."

"I'll do it," volunteered Nicole.

"Do you think that's wise?" replied Buck with concern on his face. "You've got a husband and son waiting at home for you . . . this could be dangerous. . ."

"I'm all too aware of how dangerous this is," replied Nicole. "But with my FBI training we all know I'm the best person . . . best woman for this job . . ."

Buck nodded, relenting to Nicole's suggestion.

"Ok, if you're going in, I want this planned to the letter and I also want to make sure we have a tracking device on you in case something happens," said Chris.

"Tracking device should be easy," chimed JD. "I have a couple of options on what we can use."

Chris nodded as he said, "Ok, let's go through the details. . ."

It was a little time later when the group had gone over their plan in great detail to work out every detail as well as possible scenarios in case something went wrong. Everyone was taking a much needed break as Chris slipped into his office to check on Abby. She was still fast asleep on his couch, her stuffed elephant held tightly in her arms. Moving forward quietly he adjusted the blanket around her while thinking she looked so young and innocent. Chris' gut twisted at the thought that they might not be able to find her mother. He had promised that little girl he would find her mother and he didn't plan on letting her down.

It was late afternoon when Nicole walked into the Royal Flush strip club, pausing for a moment as she entered to allow her eyes time to adjust to the darkened surroundings. Silently she hoped they would be able to find Abby's mother here and reunite her with her daughter.

"Can I help you?" asked the very large bouncer at the door.

"I'm looking for a job," replied Nicole as she brushed her blonde hair from her face while smiling.

"You'll want to see Lenny," replied the bouncer. "He's at the bar."

Nicole nodded as she headed toward the bar, noticing that the club was almost empty except for a handful of men who were seated around the stage enjoying the female entertainment.

"I'm looking for Lenny," said Nicole once she reached the bar.

The club manager took one last drag on his cigarette before crushing it in the nearby ashtray. "That'll be me," he said as he turned to face the female voice. "What can I do for you?"

"I'm looking for a job," replied Nicole.

"A job?" repeated Lenny as his leering gaze moved slowly down and then back up taking in her soft curves.

"Yes," said Nicole. "Heard you were looking for dancers and I really need a job."

"On the down and out, are ya?"

"Boy am I."

"Seems like your family would help you out before letting you come to work in a place like this." Lenny watched her reaction.

"I don't really have anyone to help," Nicole explained. "I wish I did."

"What's your name?" asked Lenny.

"Nickie," replied the young woman.

Lenny nodded as he then said, "Turn around for me, honey."

Nicole followed his instructed and slowly turned. When she was once again facing him, Lenny smiled and said, "You'll do quite nicely."

Meanwhile down the street a white inconspicuous van was parked in a nearly empty lot. Inside was JD, Buck, Chris, and Josiah monitoring Nicole closely.

"Looks like she's in," stated JD who had earphones on so he could hear everything in the Royal Flush thanks to his newest creation which was a pair of cubic zirconia stud earrings she was wearing that also held mini tracking and listening devices.

Chris nodded as Buck who was also wearing earphones nervously lightly tapped a pencil against the make-shift table.

"Buck, she'll be fine," reassured Chris as he placed a calm hand on his shoulder.

Buck nodded as he put the pencil down. Chris was right. Nicole was a qualified FBI agent and was trained for these types of situations. She could handle herself and would be fine.

"Josiah, how's everything out front?" asked Chris.

"It's as quiet as a congregation during Sunday prayer," replied the big man while smiling back at them.

"Good, if it changes, let me know."

Picking up his cell phone, Chris placed a call to Ezra to give him an update on their situation.

With Lenny preoccupied with the new gal, Lydia thought now was her opportunity to use the pay phone and try to locate Nora's daughter. Pulling two quarters out of her pocket she placed them in the slot in the pay phone and dialed Social Services' number.

"Las Vegas Social Services," said the voice on the other end.

Before Lydia could respond the bouncer appeared from around the corner looking for her "Lydia, Lenny wants to see you," said Hank.

Lydia nodded as she reluctantly hung up the phone. She was really hoping she could help Nora find her daughter and now her one window of opportunity just slammed shut.

"You know what the boss says about using the phone," warned Hank as they walked away from the pay phone.

"It rang and I picked it up," explained Lydia hoping her excuse sounded believable. "Besides it was just a telemarketer selling time shares or something. . ."

"Next time just let it ring," said Hank. "And this time I won't tell Lenny." He liked her and didn't want to see her get hurt and that's definitely what Lenny would do if he found out she was using the phone.

"Thanks Hank, I appreciate it," replied Lydia as she smiled sweetly at the big man.

As Lydia approached Lenny and the new gal she smiled. "What's up boss?"

"This is Nickie . . . she's our new dancer," explained Lenny. "Why don't you show her around?"

"Sure thing," said Lydia. "Nickie, let me take you back and show you the dressing rooms. . ."

As the two women walked away Lenny's cell phone began to ring.

Recognizing the number immediately on the display, Lenny said, "Yea, boss."

"I see we got a new girl," said Wickes who had been watching everything on the surveillance feeds from the comfort of his office back at King's Court.

"Yes, Sir, we did, her name's Nickie" replied Lenny. "I think she'll work out nicely . . . the regulars are gonna love her."

"Does she have any family?" asked Wickes.

"No Sir," replied Lenny. "She said she's all by her lonesome here in Vegas."

Wickes smiled as he replied, "Very nice. Well, I think I'd like to meet her . . . why don't you bring her out to the court. . ."

"Yes, Sir," said Lenny. "I'll bring her out right away." Damn, thought Lenny, there went another dancer. He knew when the boss took an interest in a girl that meant she would be working at King's Court and not the club. He had lost quite a few prospective dancers this way but if this was what the boss wanted, this is what he got.

"Excellent," said Wickes. "See you shortly and tell Nickie I'm looking forward to meeting her."

"Will do," said Lenny and then hung up. "Hank, we're making a trip to the Court . . . get the car."

The bouncer nodded as he headed toward the back exit to get the vehicle ready.

Back in the dressing room, Lydia was showing Nicole where everything was and giving her pointers on what to expect. "Some folks think this is easy work," said Lydia. "But shaking your ass in three-inch heels every night is harder than it looks . . . and it's especially hard if you're juggling a family and all."

"Well, luckily I don't have any family here," said Nickie. "And I'm sure by the end of the week I'll know what you mean about shaking my ass in three-inch heels."

"Ladies, I hate to interrupt things but I need to take Nickie to see the boss," said Lenny after entering the dressing room area.

"Boss? I thought you were the boss?" said Nickie as her brow furrowed.

Lenny laughed as he replied, "Nah . . . let's just say I'm just middle management here . . . the big boss man likes to approve all the new hires."

"Oh, ok . . . sure," said Nickie. "Thanks for the tour, Lydia," she added as she smiled at the woman who was very helpful.

"It was my pleasure, sweetie," said Lydia, watching as the two walked out. It looked like Wickes has taken an interest in the newest arrival, she thought with sadness.

"She's on the move," stated JD who was in the surveillance van. He was watching the monitor that showed the location of Nicole's tracking device. "They're traveling east."

"They said they're taking her to see the 'boss'," stated a worried Buck.

"Let's follow 'em but at a distance . . . we don't want to be spotted," said Chris as he moved into the front passenger seat and fastened his seat belt.

"Will do," said Josiah as he started the van and pulled out, JD giving him directions on which way to go. Meanwhile Buck called back to the Montecito to fill the others in what was happening.

It took them about an hour to get to the location where they took Nicole, finding it was outside Las Vegas in a small town called Pahrump. Parking a discreet distance away, they listened as Nicole was escorted inside to meet the 'boss'.

"They're at The King's Court," said Josiah as he looked through some binoculars to get a closer look at the building.

"I'll get Vin to pull up all the information he has on the place," stated Chris before he made a phone call to his coworker back at the Montecito.

"The King's Court?" I wonder what that is?" asked JD out loud, the question directed at no one in particular.

The other three men looked at each other. They had lived in Vegas longer and knew that in Pahrump prostitution was legal and there were quite a few establishments that catered to that cliental.

"Well, you know in Pahrump there are some things that are legal that aren't in Vegas," said Buck as he tried to explain it tactfully.

"I'd thought pretty much everything would be legal in Vegas," responded JD. "Shoot, it's Sin City. . ."

"True, but prostitution isn't," stated Buck who decided he would come out and say it instead of beating around the bush.

"Prostitution?" repeated JD as his cheeks turned a deep red. Before he could say anything else, he heard voices from his headphones and realized she was meeting the boss. Gesturing to the headphones the other men moved quickly to grab a pair so they can hear the conversation as well.

"So, you must be Nickie, it's my pleasure to meet you . . . please sit down. . ." said the boss. "I'm Wickes and I'm the owner of the Royal Flush as well as here, The King's Court."

"Sir, it is nice to meet you," said Nicole.

"So, can I get you a drink?" asked Wickes.

"Just water would be fine."

"So, Lenny said you meet with all the new hires," said Nicole as Wickes returned with two glasses . . . one with water for her and one with whiskey for him.

"That I do, that I do," replied Wickes as he took his seat. "And I see Lenny made a very wise decision hiring you . . . you're a very beautiful girl. . ."

"Thank you," said Nicole and then took a sip of her water.

"Lenny also said you have no family in the area. . ." said Wickes as he tried to gather more information on the young woman.

"Yeah. I came out to Vegas with my boyfriend and then he dumped me and I thought I would stay and try and make a go of it."

"He must be a very stupid man," replied Wickes as he smiled.

Nicole laughed. "Yea, he is . . . "

"So, Nickie," said Wickes. "I know you applied for a job as a dancer at our club, but I think I might have something better suited for you . . . something that will pay more . . ."

"Pay more? Oh, I would love that," said Nicole after taking a long drink of her water. "I'm a hair's breadth from being evicted out of my apartment so I definitely need the money."

"Well, we have a few openings here at The King's Court," said Wickes. "And I think you would be perfect working here."

"Here? What would I do?" Nicole already knew the answer to that. She knew when they pulled up to The King's Court exactly what type of establishment it was.

"Well, you would just need to entertain the clients," explained Wickes as he leaned back in his chair. "It's not that difficult and like I said the pay is much better. . ."

"I don't know," said Nicole with uncertainty in her voice. She was starting to feel a little woozy and she placed a hand to her head. She needed some fresh air. "I appreciate the offer and all but . . ." she started as she stood. The room began to sway as her gaze settl

d on the glass of water she had been drinking. Looking up at Wickes she murmured, "You put something in my drink. . ." The next moment she collapsed on the floor.

Wickes smiled as he replied to the unconscious woman. "That I did . . . how else would I get you to stay here?"

"We're goin' in now!" said Buck as he tore the headphones off his head. That was his good friend in there, and he sure as hell wasn't gonna let anything happen to her.

"Now, Buck, calm down," said Chris. "If we're gonna go in, we need a plan and we need reinforcements."

"Chris is right, Buck," countered Josiah. "If we go in guns a blazing then people will get hurt and that's the last thing we want. . ."

Buck took a deep calming breath. His friends were right. They needed a plan and reinforcements if they were going to get Nicole and hopefully Abby's mother out safely. "Fine, you're right," he finally said.

Chris nodded as he said, "JD, keep monitoring Nicole and let us know if anything changes. Meanwhile, it's time we called the others . . ."

Ezra and Nathan returned to the Montecito's security office with coffee, Ezra placing one on Vin Tanner's desk while he was busy working. "Thanks," said Vin without looking up.

Leaning against JD's empty desk, Ezra asked after taking a sip of his coffee, "Find anything of interest?"

"Few things," replied Vin as he handed some documents to the two men that he had just printed off. The security officer had been searching in their various databases for any information on the 'Royal Flush' club and its owner and by the looks of it he found a few things.

"Very interesting," said the Pit Boss.

Vin took a tentative sip of his hot coffee and then nodded in agreement.

"Any word from Social Services?" asked Vin as he leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms above his head. He had been sitting for way too long and his muscles were now protesting.

"Got a call from them about an hour ago," said Nathan. "They're running way behind but hope to get here in a few hours."

"Well, let's hope we hear from Chris soon and he's got some good news," remarked Vin.

"I believe I will go check to see how our guest is doing," said Ezra as he pushed away from the desk he had been leaning against. Abby had a busy afternoon at the Montecito filled with lunch in the Twenty-One café, a visit to the resort's gift shop, and then experimenting with the copier machine. The men had purposely kept the young girl busy so she wouldn't worry about her missing mother. Now the exhausted little girl was taking a nap on the couch in Chris' office.

When Ezra reached the closed door to Chris' office, he heard a soft whimper. Easing the door open, he quietly stepped inside closing the door behind him as his gaze adjusted to the darkness of the room.

"Mommy . . . no . . . don't go . . . Mommy. . ." murmured Abby who, caught in a nightmare, twisted and turned on the couch.

Ezra moved quickly to the couch, sitting on the edge, he whispered, "Abby . . . darlin' . . . it's just a dream . . ."

"Mommy!" The little girl awoke abruptly and Ezra gathered her into his arms, his hand soothing over her curly locks and trembling back.

"It's ok," he whispered. "You're safe . . . no one can hurt you. . ."

"It's Mommy," said Abby as the tears fell down her cheeks. "Essra. . .They took Mommy. . ." It seemed the young girl was having a hard time pronouncing the Pit Boss' name

Ezra smiled softly as he replied, "We're doing everything we can to get your Mommy back. . . you just have to stay strong, ok?" He looked down in the little girl's big eyes.

Abby nodded as her lower lip trembled. "I'll try."

Meanwhile out in the bull-pen area, Vin's phone rang, picking it up on the second ring, he said, "'ello."

Chris was calling in to fill them in on what had happened and enlisting their help in getting Nicole and hopefully Abby's Mother out of The King's Court. Hitting the speaker button on his cell phone so the other's could hear the conversation, Chris then said, "Vin, it's Chris . . . we're in Pahrump . . . they took Nicole to a place called 'The King's Court'."

"Sounds about right," said Vin on the other end. "I've been doin' some research since you last called and it looks like both 'The King's Court' and 'Royal Flush' are owned by the same guy . . . his name is Wickes . . ."

"I've called the FBI and they are going to meet us out here to get Nicole out and hopefully Abby's mother is in there too," explained Chris.

"What do you need us to do?" asked Vin.

"We need you to pick up a few things and then meet us out here," said Chris.

"Sure, just tell us what you need," replied Vin.

Chris proceeded to give instructions on what he needed them to pick up and where they should meet.

After the conversation ended, Vin filled Nathan in on the plan.

"We'll need to get someone to watch Abby," said Vin.

"I think Inez would do it," suggested Nathan.

"Give her a call and see if she's free," suggested Vin. "Meanwhile I'll start gathering up the items they need and will fill Ezra in on the plan. . ."

It was about an hour later when the group including Agent Jeffrey Talbot and several other agents from the FBI Las Vegas branch met at a small airfield not too far away from The King's Court.

"Here's the item you needed," said Ezra as he handed the garment over to Buck. "I assume there is a good reason why you are requesting your Elvis costume. . ."

"There is," replied Buck. "Figured you all would need a little diversion to get into the building . . ." The Hospitality Host left the group so he could change into his costume and get ready.

"We need to be extremely careful," stated Chris. "I don't want anyone to get hurt. . ."

"So how many men are we against?" asked Agent Talbot.

"We saw two men patrolling the outside and I'd imagine there are about two or three more inside," said Josiah.

"Also, it looks like there were surveillance cameras outside and no doubt there are some on the inside too," said JD. "Once we get closer to the building I can see if I can hack into them."

"Good," replied Chris as he nodded in approval.

A few minutes later Buck returned to the group, dressed in his Elvis costume and parachute gear on.

"Ready?" asked Chris.

"If you're waiting on me, you're backing up," replied Buck as he grinned.

Chris smiled at the familiar line Buck used that a former FBI colleague would always say. "Ok, be careful and we'll see you at 'The King's Court'."

"Roger that, you too," replied Buck as he slapped JD on the shoulder and headed to the waiting plane that would take him up for his parachute jump.

The group of men watched as Buck boarded the plane and it taxied down the runway.

"Ok, we should head on over and get into place," said Chris, the other men nodding in agreement as they made their way to their vehicles.

It was a short time later and the three vehicles reached their destination, parking a discrete distance away. JD was in the back of the van, feverishly typing away to gain access to their security cameras. Meanwhile in the front of the van, Josiah was monitoring everything with binoculars.

"How much longer?" asked Chris as he glanced back at the youngest team member.

"A few more minutes," replied JD as he stole a quick glance up. "It's not as easy as just snapping your fingers, you know."

Chris checked his watch. They only had a few more minutes before Buck's arrival and whether JD was able to hack into their security system or not, they would be heading in. They only had a narrow window before it would shut close.

"Car's arriving," stated Josiah as he watched through the binoculars.

"Who is it?" asked Chris. "A customer?"

"No, looks like a woman is getting out," said Josiah. "Maybe someone who works there. . ."

"Think I'm in," said JD in a loud voice, interrupting the conversation.

Chris moved to the back of the van. "Whattya got?"

"Well, there are definitely several surveillance cameras outside and inside the place," stated JD who had three windows opened on his computer each showing a different outside view. "I've got all the outside camera views up and I'm working on the inside ones right now."

"Good," said Chris. "We'll be leaving soon so try to get into as many of those cameras as you can."

"Will do," said JD as he continued typing away.

"Chris, we've got a visual of Buck's plane," said Vin through the earpiece.

"Got it," replied Chris. "JD's staying back in the van to keep an eye on the security monitors. Josiah and I will go in your car."

"Roger that," said Vin.

"JD, you're our eyes . . . keep an open com," instructed Chris.

"Will do, Chris," said JD. "Good luck."

Donnie was leaning against the side of the building, a toothpick dangling from his lips as he kept a visual of the surroundings. Working at "The King's Court" as a security guard was a pretty cushy job - he made a decent amount of money and other than a few rowdy customers, the work was easy. Plus Wickes lets him sample the ladies free of charge on occasion.

Squinting up at the bright sky, he noticed what looked like a parachute with a person hanging from it. Calling for reinforcements on the walkie-talkie, he headed off to meet the unexpected visitor with the other guards - Pete, Jackson, and Jon -- not too far behind him

Buck slowly floated back down to earth, glancing below he saw four guards waiting down below. Smiling, he was glad to see the first part of their plan was working perfectly.

"Hey there, fellas," said a grinning Buck as his feet touched the ground.

"Mister, what are you doing here?" asked Donnie as he took in the tall moustache fellow dressed in a white Elvis jumpsuit.

"You all hired me," replied Buck.

"No, I don't think we did," replied Pete.

"What? This isn't 'Shake, Rattle, & Roll Car Wash'?" replied Buck as pretended to look surprised.

"No sir," replied Jackson.

"Ahh hell, I must have gotten blown off course," replied Buck. "I was supposed to land at the grand opening of that new car wash in town. . ."

"Well, I think you missed you mark," replied Jon.

"Dangnabit," said Buck as he slapped a hand against his thigh. "I'm going to be in t-r-o-u-b-l-e if you know what I mean. . ."

JD watched as the vehicles pulled up in front of the large building, and the group of men quickly got out and headed to the main door.

"Coast is clear, guys," said JD as he stood vigil in front of the monitors. "There are four guards with Buck . . . no one is manning the front entrance. . ."

"Roger that," replied Chris as he tapped his communication device. "We're going in."

The group of men slipped into the front entrance; glancing around, Chris was glad to see it was empty . . . no one was around.

"Ok, let's break up into small groups," said Chris. "Everyone be careful. . ."

The group of men broke up into small groups to investigate the house - Chris and Vin in one group, Ezra, Josiah, and Nathan in the second group, and the FBI officers in a third group.

Meanwhile JD followed their movements back in the van, ready to give them warnings if any other bodyguards or the owner, Wickes, appeared. His fingers flew over the keyboard as he hacked into more of the security monitors. One of them flashed up on the screen causing JD to pause for a moment. It seemed the camera was located in one of the girl's rooms who was currently with a client. A deep blushed covered his cheeks and his minimized the screen and diverted his eyes to the other monitors.

"Ahh . . . Chris . . . I found Nicole . . ." said JD as he hacked into another of the security monitors. "Looks like she's in a bedroom . . . not sure where . . . but she's definitely there."

Chris paused as he listed to JD's words. "Ok, JD, thanks. . . we'll find her."

Chris turned to Vin and gestured for him to try the first door. Opening it very slowly the Security Officer looked in the room. He froze when his gaze landed on a buxom blonde who was scantily clad in lingerie sitting on the bed brushing her hair.

She glanced up and smiled. "Are you my next client?"

"Sorry Ma'am, wrong room . . ." said Vin as he quickly closed the door. It definitely wasn't Nicole and sure as heck didn't look like Abby's mother.

"No luck," he said to Chris as the Security Chief turned to the next door and noticed it was locked with a bolt which he thought was very odd. Turning the bolt to unlock it, he slowly opened the door.

He immediately spotted Nicole who was lying on the bed still unconscious from whatever Wickes had given her earlier. His gaze took in the rest of the room, noticing she was alone and he then slowly walked inside with Vin after him.

"Nickie. . ." he whispered after sitting on the bed. "It's Chris . . . I'm here to get you out . . ." He brushed a stray piece of hair from her face.

"Mmmmm . . . Chris?" replied a very groggy Nicole as she tried to open her eyes but just couldn't manage the strength to do it.

"Yea, come on, let's get you out of here," he said quietly as he lifted her into his arms and carried her out with Vin following quickly behind.

Meanwhile Ezra, Josiah, and Nathan had been busy searching for Abby's mother, when one of the doors opened and an older woman with dark hair emerged.

"Oh!" said Lydia as she placed a hand to her heart, surprised to see the three men in the hallway.

"Sorry to surprise you, Ma'am," said Josiah as he smiled. "We're not here to hurt you . . . just searching for a friend. . ."

Lydia had a feeling she knew who these men were looking for. "Nora?" she asked. "Tiny young girl with soft brown hair . . . arrived late last night. . ."

The three men looked at each other. It definitely sounded like Abby's mother and the timing of her arrival coincided with Abby's arrival at the Montecito.

"Yes," replied Nathan. "Can you take us to her?"

Lydia nodded. "Follow me."

The three men followed the woman down the corridor and then to the right. She stopped at the third door on the left and slowly unlocked the bolt.

A very scared Nora looked up when she heard the soft click of the door unlocking and then swinging open. In walked Lydia with three men.

"No . . . please . . ." she whispered as tears came to her eyes.

The three men concealed the shock on their faces as they took in her battered appearance. It looked like the poor girl had been used as a punching bag and was now very scared.

"Nora, they're not here to hurt you," replied Lydia quickly. "They're here to get you out.

Ezra nodded as he gave a reassuring smile. "There's a young lady back in Las Vegas awaiting her Mother's return. . ." he explained.


Ezra nodded. "Let's just say she is quite a persuasive little girl . . . she enlisted our help in finding you. . ."

"She's ok?" she asked as tears of relief began to fall down her bruised cheeks.

"She is," replied Nathan.

"I believe we should make haste with our escape before we are discovered," suggested Ezra.

Ezra and Nathan moved toward Nora, assisting her out of the bed and helping her out of the room.

"Ma'am. If you'll come with me please," Josiah said, as he offered Lydia his arm to escort her out.

"The others," said Lydia as she paused. She cared too much about the other girls to leave them behind.

"Don't worry . . . we'll get them all out," reassured Josiah.

Wickes closed the adjoining door to this private bedroom and walked into this office while slipping his suit jacket over his shoulders. Since the afternoon had been kind of slow at The King's Court, he had taken a little break and enjoyed the services one of one of his gals, a fringe benefit he had for being the owner.

Taking a seat in his large leather desk chair he opened his desk drawer and grabbed a cigar. While lighting it, he took a glance at the monitors to see what his girls were up too.

"What the hell?" he muttered as his brow furrowed in confusion, noticing that many of the rooms were empty, in particular the two rooms that held the new girls -- Nora and Nickie.

"JON!" he yelled from his seat.

No answer. Silence.

Ok, something was definitely was wrong.

"JON!" he repeated as he stood and made his way to his door. "What the hell is going on?" He swung his door open only to find himself greeted by several strange men.

"FBI! Sir, put your hands up in the air," instructed Agent Talbot.

Wickes followed the command as he demanded, "What are you doing here? I've done nothing wrong. . ."

The agents lead the complaining owner outside to join Chris and his group of men from the Montecito, as well as, many of the 'working' women who they had retrieved from inside.

"I demand to know what the hell is going on," stated Wickes in a loud, booming voice.

"Sir, please calm down," said Agent Talbot.

Wickes saw his guards approaching with a man dressed as Elvis and wearing a parachute. "Where have you all been?" he yelled at them.

"Gentlemen, put her hands up in the air and walk slowly toward us," instructed Agent Talbot.

"Boss, we had an intruder on the compound," stated Donnie as he held his hands up in the air. "I called the others for help."

"Intruder? INTRUDER?" repeated Wickes as his face turned red in anger. He gestured to the other men standing around and said continued, "You go after some Elvis wannabe while the real intruders slip right in, you IDIOT!"

"Hey, I take offense at that remark," replied Buck who didn't appreciate being called an "Elvis wannabe." He made his way to his coworkers, shaking Chris' hand and handing his parachute to Josiah who stowed it in the back of their vehicle.

"Good job," said Chris.

Buck nodded as he replied, "Where's Nicole?"

"In the SUV with Nora . . . Nathan is looking after them both," replied Chris. "They're ok. . ."

Buck let out a sigh of relief as the two men headed over to their former FBI colleagues.

"I have done NOTHING wrong," demanded Wickes as Chris and Buck approached.

"Really?" said Chris.

"It is. I'm just a business man trying to make a living," replied Wickes.

"All I see is a pig of a man," replied a very disgusted Buck. Any man who would treat women like he did, deserved to rot in jail, thought the Hospitality Host.

Wickes ignored Buck's comment and replied smugly, "Well, if you haven't heard, prostitution is legal in Pahrump."

"It might be, but I don't think kidnapping, false imprisonment, battery, coercion . . . just to name a few . . . are," replied Chris, his response quickly wiping the smug look off of Wickes' face.

"Chris, why don't you and your men head back, we'll deal with the clean up here," said Agent Talbot who was not looking forward to calling the local sheriff and informing him of the bust they did in his jurisdiction without his prior knowledge.

"Sure thing," said Chris. "Thanks again for your help."

JD had overheard everything through the open communication link and was very pleased everything went as smoothly and as planned and they were able to retrieve Abby's mother and Nicole. Getting out of his chair, he slipped into the seat behind the wheel and started the van up. Putting it into gear, he drove up to pick up his coworkers. Chris, Vin, and Josiah got into the van, Josiah taking over the driving while Buck, Nathan, and Ezra rode in the SUV with the two ladies.

Nicole, who was resting against Buck, stirred, her eyelids flickering open. "Hey there, angel," said Buck softly.

"Where are we?" she asked as she licked her dry lips.

"Heading back to Vegas," replied Buck.

She nodded as she squinted, taking in Buck's appearance. "Umm . . . Buck, why are you dressed like Elvis?"

"Thought I would dress up for the occasion," replied Buck in a low voice.

Nicole's eyelids began to drift close as she murmured before she fell back to sleep against his shoulder, "You're just a big ole teddy bear. . ."

Meanwhile, in the van, the four men were rather subdued, weary from the busy events from the past 24 hours and little sleep. When they were closer to Vegas, Chris made a call back to the Montecito to let Travis know they should be back shortly.

Orin paced in Chris's office while he waited for the men to come back. Chris had informed him of what was happening, and had kept him up to date throughout the entire rescue operation. It seemed to him that you could take the man out of the FBI, but you could not get the FBI out of the man. Thinking on it, Orin had to admit to himself, that he would not want this group of men to be any other way.

The phone rang, startling the hotel owner, and he lunged to pick it up before it even started its second ring. "Travis here."

"Orin?" Chris's voice sounded weary. "We got her, and at least a dozen others too."

"Thank God!" Orin let out a heavy sigh. "And your friend? Is she all right?"

"Nicole is fine. A little shaken and groggy, but she'll be okay."

"Did you get the man behind all of this?" That man was worse than sheep dung as far as Orin was concerned. At least dung had the useful purpose of acting as fertilizer, but anyone who could do the things this cur had done was worse than worthless.

"Yeah. I'll fill you in on it all when we get back. You suppose you could do something for me?"

Orin was somewhat taken aback. Chris seldom asked for anything. "I can try. What is it?"

"Don't say anything to Abby yet. We need time to talk to her mother first. Could you find someone to keep her occupied somewhere away from the office?"

"Sure," Orin agreed. "I'll get hold of Inez and see if she'll take her for ice cream."


"How soon will you be here?" Orin glanced at his watch, figuring he had at least half an hour to get things arranged.

"Ten to fifteen minutes."

"I need to get moving then. I'll talk to you when you get here." Orin was already looking up the number to call Inez as he ended the call with Chris.

Inez had just left with Abby when the security monitor showed two of the Montecito's vehicles, a van and an SUV, pull up to the rear receiving area. Chris and the others piled out of the vehicles and Ezra paused to offer a hand to the last occupant of the SUV. Orin gasped when he saw the young woman struggle to her feet with Ezra's help. The bruises on her face showed stark against her pale skin, clearly visible even over the surveillance cameras.

Orin grabbed a couple of throw pillows and placed them against the arm of the couch to give Nora a comfortable place to lie down. She looked ready to collapse as Ezra supported her on one side and Josiah steadied her from the other.

A few minutes passed before he heard the distinct sound of Josiah's deep rumbling voice from down in the control room. He held the door open while they all filed inside, and he motioned for them to take Nora over to the couch.

"Owwww. . ." Her breath caught as she settled onto the soft cushions. With Nathan's help, she turned around to lie down. Visibly shaking from both exertion and pain, Nora took several slow steady breaths before turning to look at others in the room. "Where's Abby? You said she was here." A tear rolled down her face as she started to become more agitated.

"She's here," Orin assured her.

"I asked him to have her out of here so we could talk to you first," Chris explained. "I know you are anxious to see her, but I don't think you'd want her to hear some of the things we need to talk about." He pulled a chair over close to the couch where she could look at him without having to turn her head. "She's fine. She has everyone here wrapped around her little finger already."

Nora attempted a laugh, but ended up coughing. "That's my Abby."

"She is quite the little charmer." Ezra grinned.

"You'd know wouldn't you?" Vin teased. "She had you pegged from the word go."

"And I supposed you weren't phased by her a bit?" Ezra taunted in return. "So what was that Oreo lesson all about, then?"

"Hey!" Chris interrupted. "We have more important things to do at the moment."

Both men look suitably chastised, and Ezra commandeered another chair and pulled it up near Chris. "Indeed we do. We certainly don't want to keep mother and child separated any longer than necessary."

"Are you comfortable enough?" Orin fussed around the pillows making sure they had not slipped and got her a glass of cold water from the water cooler Chris kept in his office.

"As comfortable as I can be." She accepted the water and took several deep swallows before focusing back on Chris.

A knock on the door caught their attention, followed by the door opening. Mary Travis stuck her head in and frowned as she took in the scene. "There you are." Her gaze fell on Orin and she moved on into the room to her father-in-law's side. "I thought we were going to dinner?"

Orin slipped his arm around her waist and kissed her on the cheek. "I'm sorry, Mary. I should have had Shirley call you and reschedule. Everything got so hectic and I forgot."

"What's going on?" The journalist in her pushed the upset daughter-in-law aside, as she surveyed the room.

Orin noticed that Nora had visibly relaxed when Mary entered the room. He hadn't even considered how unsettling it would be for her to be in a roomful of men after all she had been through.

"Now, dear. You just turn that reporter's radar off, and you can stay while we talk to Nora. This is all totally off the record."

Mary obviously struggled with the decision a moment, before agreeing to keep things to herself. "It isn't very fair asking me to keep secrets without even knowing what I'm promising about," she grumbled.

Josiah retrieved a chair for her and he took a seat on a large ottoman.

"Nora," Chris focused the attention back on the young woman on the couch. ". . .can you tell us what happened?"

After some hesitation, Nora took a shaky breath and spoke, her voice barely audible at first. "I needed a job. I couldn't find one and I really needed money."

"It seems that there should have been something out there for you other than a strip club?" Orin felt bad for the young woman, but wondered how she could have made the choices she did.

"No place would hire me. I tried." Nora explained.

"Couldn't you have left Abby with a neighbor, instead of leaving her in the car?" Josiah asked, his voice soft and full of concern. "She was lucky to have wandered in here."

"Even luckier that someone didn't pick her up off the street," Vin added. "That part of town ain't the safest for a small kid alone."

"I know." Nora buried her face in her hands and started to sob. "I didn't have any choice. I don't know anyone to leave her with."

"You took a child with you and left her in the car while you stripped?" Mary was a seasoned reporter and long time resident of Las Vegas, but some things still shocked her. Her frown and turned up nose spoke volumes about her opinion of the battered young woman. "What on earth were you thinking?"

"I told you. I didn't have a choice." Nora defended herself.

"Everyone has choices, and it sounds like you made some bad ones."

"Mary!" Orin jumped in before his daughter-in-law could say any more. "We don't know the whole story, so keep your judgments to yourself."

Mary sat back like she had been slapped and glared at Nora. However, she kept her mouth shut and let the men handle the questioning.

Buck had kept quiet up to this point, but now edged his way between the chairs to squat down next to the couch. Taking Nora's hand, he smiled reassuringly at her. "Darlin', don't mind these folks. Some of 'em just don't understand that sometimes you do things you wouldn't normally, if you are desperate enough." He gave her hand a light squeeze. "Why don't you tell ol' Buck what happened that made you feel you had no other choice?"

Nora visibly relaxed under Buck's understanding gaze. "We'd been living in the car. No one would hire me without a permanent address."

"Why were you living in the car?"

"My husband died a few months ago. He left us with nothing. We had just moved here and I didn't have a job. I tried to get one, but I didn't have anyone to watch Abby, and I couldn't afford day care." Tears rolled down her cheeks as painful memories flooded back

"There are agencies that offer assistance," Josiah said. "Did you check with any of those?"

Nora nodded. "We hadn't lived here long enough to qualify. I had to stop paying rent to be able to feed us, and the landlord kicked us out in the street about a month ago. He kept everything but our clothes to sell for the back rent, so I didn't even have anything I could hock for money."

Orin noticed that Mary's expression softened as the story unwound; if circumstances had been different Mary could have found her self in Nora's position when Steven died.

"I had a little money left and we've been living in the car, and eating as cheap as we could, but I was down to my last twenty dollars." Nora hung her head to avoid all the eyes on her.

"Now, darlin', don't you go hanging that pretty little head of yours." Buck put a finger gently under her chin to avoid hurting her and tipped her head up so he could look her in the eyes. "Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. Same kinda thing happened to my Mom. Only difference is that once she got pulled into that life, she was never able to get back out of it. I grew up around those kinds of places, but at least she was in one where the owner was decent to working girls."

"What's going to happen to us now?" Nora asked.

"We had already contacted social services about Abby, and they'll have to do a follow up interview with you. We'll help all we can with that," Josiah offered.

"I can't lose Abby. She's all I have." Nora sat up, ignoring her own pain, and looked to Orin. "Don't let them take her from me, please."

"I think we can make sure that doesn't happen," Orin promised. "The main thing is that you be able to take care of Abby and yourself, including a place to live."

"How am I going to do that?" Nora wiped away more tears.

"Orin owns the Montecito," Mary chimed in. "You are going to help her, right?"

If he had not already planned to, he would have changed his mind when he saw the pleading in Mary's eyes. Nora's story had really hit home with her. "Of course I am."

He turned back to Nora and gave her a fatherly smile. "We'll put you up in a room here, short term, until you can get some money put back to get into a place of your own. I'll see that you are set up with a full time job with housekeeping, and Abby can stay in the hotel daycare. It is usually just for guest's children but under special circumstances I have let an employee make use of the service."

"You'd do that for us?" Nora asked in disbelief, relief causing her to go weak. She leaned back against the pillows and wiped damp eyes with a shaking hand.

"Darlin'," Buck retrieved her glass of water and offered her a drink. "You did what you did to try to take care of Abby, not to hurt her. You had no idea that pig was kidnapping women for his 'house' in Pahrump. The only thing you are guilty of is trying to provide for the two of you. Orin is a good man when it comes to giving people second chances." He glanced at Ezra with a lopsided smile. "As some of us here know first hand."

"We'll all help you get settled," Mary added. "I lost my husband too. I know how hard that can be. I was lucky enough to have family and friends to stand by me. I can't imagine going through that on my own, with no one to turn to.

Another knock preceded Lt. Perez' entrance. "Chris." He nodded at his old friend and then glanced at the young woman on the couch. "Don't you think you could have called us before calling in the feds?"

"Sorry, Luis. Everything went down pretty fast, and since one of their agents was inside we had to get them involved." Chris turned back to Nora. "This is Lt. Perez, of the Las Vegas PD. He's going to need to take a statement from you. Are you up to it?"

Nora nodded, and watched as part of the group went out to the control room to wait. Mary, Orin, and Chris stayed with her, but moved back somewhat so they wouldn't distract Nora or Luis.

Out in the control room the men kept glancing at the glass wall of the office.

JD leaned against the wall next to Buck where he waited separate from the rest of the group. "You never told me your mom was a. . ."

"Was a what?" Buck snapped at his young friend.

"Well, I mean. . .you said that you grew up. . ."

"I did, and the only thing my mom was to me was a saint, and I won't have anyone else saying otherwise."

JD nodded, unsure what else to say or if he should say anything. Instead he opted for just leaning there with his friend offering silent support.

Twenty minutes later, Luis Perez left the office and the guys all filed back inside.

"Nora, let's go get you cleaned up and settled in bed. Then we'll get Abby brought up to you," Mary suggested.

"I'd like a chance to check you over better too," Nathan joined in. "If it's just bruises you got, things will mend fine on their own, but I want to be sure you don't have any worse injuries before I say you can skip a trip to the hospital."

When the pair tried to help Nora up, she had stiffened up to the point that it was causing her a lot of pain to move. Nathan easily slipped his arms under her and lifted her like she wasn't any heavier than a rag doll.

Orin hung up the phone where he had called down to get the number of a room for her. "I've blocked room 301 for you to use." He held the door open for the trio to leave.

"So, what do you think will happen with this man that kidnapped her?" Orin hoped that they would lock him up and never let the man out.

"I don't think he's going to be getting out of jail for a very long time." Vin looked to Chris for confirmation.

"He might never see the light of day again. At least I hope he doesn't," Chris agreed.

"If I might be allowed, I'd like to go find Abby, so I can take her up to Nora when they are ready for her." Ezra's attachment to the little girl was evident, and he had clearly stopped trying to hide it.

"Go ahead. Just be sure to prepare her for what she'll see before you take her inside."

"That goes without saying," Ezra commented. "The last thing I would want to do is scare Abby." That said, he turned on his heel to go join Inez and her little charge until Nathan contacted them with the okay sign.

Ezra found Inez and Abby at a small table in the back of Mystique. They were both having ice cream sundaes.

"My, my, those do look delicious. Do you lovely ladies mind if I join you."

"Not at all. Would you like ice cream too?" Inez motioned to the chair across from them.

"I don't mind if I do. Make mine strawberry and marshmallow."

Inez motioned to one of her staff to come over and gave her Ezra's order. "Abby is on her second sundae."

"Goodness, were you hungry or do you just really like ice cream?" Ezra teased the child. "I'll let you in on a little secret." He leaned forward conspiratorially. "I am a closet ice cream addict." At Abby's puzzled expression he explained. "That means I LOVE ice cream, but no body knows it."

"That's what you think, Senor Ezra." Inez winked at him and giggled when he pretended to be shocked that his secret was out.

The conversation stayed light until Ezra's cell phone rang, and it was Nathan letting him know they were ready for Abby to come up. He had checked Nora over and nothing was broken. She just had severe bruising and she'd be sore for several days. It was the emotional trauma that would take longer to heal, and the best cure for that would be to get her reunited with Abby.

Inez slipped away and got a wet cloth to clean the ice cream off Abby's face and hands, and once she was less sticky, Ezra lifted her onto his lap for a short talk before heading upstairs.

"I need to tell you something. Can you be a big girl and listen closely to me?"

"Uh huh." Abby nodded at the serious tone in Ezra's voice.

"My friends and I found your Mommy." When Abby started to squirm to try to get down, Ezra held on to her. "Sit still and listen for a minute." She stopped wiggling and looked up at him with those big brown eyes that would melt the heart of a statue. "I'm going to take you to her in just a minute, okay?"

"I want Mommy," Abby sniffed and pouted, her bottom lip starting to tremble.

"I know you do, sweetheart, but you need to listen first." He waited until she looked up at him before starting again. "The men that took your mommy were very bad men, and they hurt her. She has a lot of bruises, and I don't want that to scare you when you see her. You know what a bruise is, don't you?"

Abby pulled up the leg of her PJs to show Ezra a bruise on her leg. "I got one."

"I'd say you do. How did you get that?"

"The car door hitted it."

"I see. Well, your mommy has a lot of those bruises, even on her face. So you will need to be gentle with her until she's all better, okay?

"Uh huh. Can I see Mommy now?" Abby looked at him, ready to start crying any minute.

"Let's go." He lifted her in his arms, and she hugged his neck as he carried her to the elevator. Within two or three minutes they were outside of 301, and he knocked softly on the door.

Nathan opened the door and let them in, watching Abby's reaction when she saw her mother in the bed.

"MOMMY!" Abby started to squirm to get down and Ezra stood her on the floor to avoid getting kicked. She bolted across the room and jumped up on the bed, but stopped just short of bouncing on Nora. When Nora held her arms out to hug her, Abby lay down and snuggled up to her.

"Hiya, Peanut." Nora hugged her tightly, oblivious to the pain it caused. "I was so worried about you."

Ezra motioned for Mary and Nathan to step into the hall with him. "I thought they might like a couple of minutes alone."

"Yeah, Mary said she'd stay with them for a while in case Nora needs anything. I gave her something for pain so she'll fall asleep soon, and someone will need to keep and eye on Abby when she does." Nathan had brought his bag out with him and turned to leave. "Call me if you need anything," he instructed Mary.

"I will." Mary smiled at Ezra. "Those are two very brave young ladies."

"Indeed they are."

"Orin called social services and let them know Nora has been rescued and that she is with us. They agreed to wait until tomorrow to come and do their interview with her. He said it sounded like there shouldn't be any problem with them," Ezra explained.

Mary looked troubled. "I hope not. I don't know what I'd do if something caused me to lose Billy. I'd hate for that to happen to her."

"I think we can feel confident that won't happen. Your father-in-law can be a very persuasive man when he sets his mind to something." Ezra started to leave and then turned back. "Thank you for offering to stay with them. I'm sure they'll both sleep easier knowing someone is watching over them."

"It was the least I could do to make up for jumping to conclusions earlier." She opened the door and peeked inside. Both mother and daughter were already sleeping soundly, still hugging each other tight. Smiling, she moved to let Ezra take a look. "It was a good thing you guys did today, a very good thing," she whispered, and surprised Ezra with a kiss on the cheek before stepping inside and closing the door.

It was about two weeks later. Mother and daughter had settled into their new routines - Nora working in Montecito's housekeeping while Abby stayed at the resort's daycare center. Without the fear and uncertainty of where their next meal would be or where they would sleep at night, Nora was able to relax and concentrate on her job and her daughter. Of course it would take time for them to both heal - Nora's bruises were slowly fading but Abby was still having nightmares about the 'bad men who took her mommy'. But thanks to their new friends, or as Abby liked to call them her "uncles", they were going to be just fine.

Removing her purse from her locker, she slipped it over her shoulder as she closed the door. This was her favorite part of the day - when she picked up Abby and they spent the evening together. Walking out of the women's changing room, she headed to daycare to pick up Abby.

When she arrived at the daycare center, she smiled, pleased to see Abby's 'Uncles' were there waiting for her. Abby had told her Mother that she was making something very special for them so Nora had arranged this meeting through Ezra.

"Hi," said Nora tentatively as she approached the seven men. She felt guilty pulling these men away from their jobs but Abby was so insistent that she saw no way out of it.

The men returned her greeting.

"How's everything going, Nora?" asked Buck.

"Pretty good . . . the job is going well and Abby has adjusted to the new routine," replied Nora. Of course she had a sinking suspicion it had a lot to do with the occasional visit of her "Uncles" at the daycare. Abby would always beam with a huge smile when she told her mom who visited her during the day. "I know you all are very busy but Abby insisted she wanted to see you . . . she said she made something for you . . ."

"It is not a problem at all," replied Ezra. "We are happy to be here."

"Well, shall we go in?" asked Nora who was now very self-conscious.

Josiah opened the door and said, "After you. . ."

Nora walked into the daycare first followed by the seven men. At this time of day it was pretty much empty except for the child care attendant and Abby who was busy drawing on the chalkboard. When Abby saw her Mother she immediately stopped what she was doing and ran into her waiting arms.

"Mommy!!" said the little girl.

"Hey there, peanut," said Nora as she hugged her little girl tightly. "Did you have a good day?"

The little girl shook her head, brown curls bouncing. "We got to play and read stories and had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and milk and I colored a couple pictures and took a nap and then we had a snack . . ."

"Wow! Sounds like you had a very busy day didn't you?" replied Nora as she took a seat in one of the kids' chairs and pulled the little girl on her lap. "Now you also have a couple of other visitors too . . ."

The little girl nodded, finally realizing her "Uncles" were also there too. The little girl smiled at the men, suddenly very shy.

Nora whispered in her ear, "Abby, did you make something for them . . ."

The little girl nodded and Nora suggested, "Why don't you get it while the guys sit down."

"Ok," said Abby as she left her Mother's lap and headed to her little cubby that held her jacket and other personal belongings. When she returned she held her handmade item carefully in her hands.

Nora glanced around the room at Abby's "Uncles" and smiled. The sight of them all sitting in the tiny kids' chairs was such an adorable sight. She wished she had a camera to take a picture.

Leaning against her Mother's leg, Abby said in a soft voice, "Mommy told me how you all were my bricks when she was gone with the bad men. . ."

"Bricks?" said JD out loud, voicing his confusion that was mirrored in the other's faces.

Nora smiled as she placed an arm lightly around the little girl's shoulders and explained quickly. "I was reading the 'Three Little Pigs' to her the other night and explained how you all were like the last pig in the story who built a brick house to keep the wolf out . . . you were her bricks that kept her safe when I was gone. . ." Her voice cracked at the very end, Nora still very emotional at the very idea at how close she came to losing Abby. She owed these men so much . . . they had kept her baby safe while she was gone and for that reason she would always be in their debt.

"Ok, Abby . . . I'm sorry I interrupted but I thought I better explain . . . go ahead . . ." urged Nora as she lightly rubbed her daughter's back.

"I wanted to thank you for saving my Mommy from those bad men and I made this card for you," said Abby as she handed her handmade card to Ezra who was sitting closest.

"Well, thank you, little one," said the Pit Boss before he read her creation. On the outside was her drawing rendition of the seven men with the words "To My Bricks" written on top and then on the inside was a drawing of her and her Mother together with the words, "Uncles, Thank You for Saving My Mommy. Love, Abby." Ezra blinked back the emotion as he handed the card to the Buck to read.

"Thank you Abby, you are quite the artistic one," said Ezra.

Abby beamed as she explained, "I drew all the pictures and Miss Amber did the writing except I did sign my name. . ."

"You did a fine job," said Buck. "I love the moustache you gave me. . ."

The little girl giggled and then said, "Thank you."

Nora watched her daughter's reaction to each of the men as they commented on her handmade card. She had worried with her husband's recent death that Abby wouldn't have a stable male influence in her life and it looked like her she no longer had to worry . . . Abby now had seven "Uncles".

"Well, peanut, I think we should let them get to work, don't you think?" suggested Nora who was worried they were taking too much of the men's time.

Abby nodded as she explained to the men, "Mommy and I are gonna order pizza and watch 'Dumbo' tonight."

"That sounds fun, cashew," replied Buck as a smile tugged at his lips.

"Cashew? It's not cashew . . . its peanut. . ." countered Abby.

"Ok, Hazelnut," countered Chris while the other men held back laughter.

"P e a n u t," replied Abby at her teasing "Uncle".

"I thought it was pecan," interjected Ezra.

"No, I thought it was almond," countered a smiling Nathan.

"Macadamia?" chimed JD.

"How about walnut?" asked Vin.

"I'm partial to pistachio," said Josiah.

Abby rolled her eyes as she said, "It's p e a n u t. . ."

"Abby, they're pulling your leg," explained Nora and she tried her best not to laugh.

"How can they be pulling my leg, Mommy?" asked Abby. "They don't got my leg. . ." She raised one leg from the ground as if to prove to her mom

"Honey, it's just an expression," explained Nora. "They're not literally 'pulling your leg' . . . they're just joking with you."

"Oh . . . ok," she said. She then turned back to her uncles and announced firmly, "It's peanut."

"Ohhhhh, Peanut. I get it now," Ezra continued teasing the little girl.

"Come on, sweetie." Nora held out her hand to her daughter. "Let's go get the Pizza ordered."

"Okay, Mommy." Abby took her mother's hand and skipped along side her as they started down the hall toward the elevators. "Mommy, wait!" Abby dropped her mother's hand and ran back toward her 'uncles'.

Ezra had to react quickly when she launched her self at him, and he scooped her up and hugged her in front of him. "What's all this about?" he asked as Abby planted her hand on either side of his face.

"I love you, Uncle Ezra."

"Awww. . . " Ezra struggled not to get choked up. "I love you too." He gave her a kiss on the forehead and prepared to set her down.

"No, not like that," Abby corrected him. "Like this. Butterfly kisses." She leaned close to him and fluttered her lashes against his cheek.

Ezra hugged her close for several seconds before he found his voice. "That was the best kiss I've ever had." He told her and gave her a butterfly kiss in return.

Satisfied, Abby let Ezra put her down and she skipped back to her mother, where she grabbed her hand and started tugging her toward the elevators. "Come on, Mommy. I'm hungry."

"You're always hungry." Nora laughed and let her daughter pull her through the open door and push the button for the third floor.

"Well, gentlemen. I think I should get back out on the floor," Ezra announced before he could become the butt of more teasing from his co-workers.

"Think we should tell him?" Vin asked Buck after Ezra had gotten several yards down the hall toward the main casino.

"As much fun as it would be to let him go, I s'pose we should let him know." Buck sighed at the lost opportunity to raz their uptight pit boss.

"Hey, Bozo!" Vin called after Ezra. "Ezra!" When the man turned back toward him he continued. "Think you'd better check the mirror before hitting the floor."

Chris had caught up to him and grabbed Ezra by the shoulders and turned him to face one of the ornamental mirrors in the hall.

"Oh, Good Lord!" There on both sides of his face were perfect handprints, one purple and one green, where Abby's hands had been covered in colored chalk dust. After a moment's surprise, Ezra grinned and turned away from the mirror and resumed his walk toward the casino, wearing two small handprints like badges of honor.

"Well would you look at that?" Buck shook his head and grinned. "Never thought I'd see the day."

"Stranger things have happened," Josiah chimed in, "all for the love of a child."



The Las Vegas Chronicles