Never a Dull Moment

by Luna Dey and Lisa S.


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.

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.


It was one of those rare days at the Montecito where all seven men were able to get together for a late lunch at the hotel's Twenty-One restaurant. While waiting for their meals to arrive, they discussed the past couple day's events.

"And so the President of the North American Environmental Association finally shows up," said Josiah as he continued his story. "And he pulls up on a bicycle, calmly gets off of it, and says 'Can you park this I'm late for my meeting?'"

"You should have seen the look on your faces," said Vin. He and the others on the security team had watched it unfold from the security monitors. "It was priceless." The group of men laughed.

"Alright fellas, here's your food," said their waitress, Alice, who arrived balancing several plates on her arms. Alice had worked at the Montecito for over ten years and was a staple at the Twenty-One restaurant. And, quite often would receive comments from customers about her name being the same as the waitress on that TV show.

"Alice, darlin', I just don't know how you do it . . . balancing all those plates without spilling a one," commented Buck as he flirted with the older woman.

"Years of practice, sweetie," she said as she winked at him.

Alice placed a plate with a huge hamburger and a pile of fries in front Ezra. "It looks delectable; my compliments to the chef."

"I'll let him know," said Alice as she smiled at the Pit Boss. "Now you, fellas, enjoy your meals . . . I'll be back in a bit to check in on you. . ."

"Kind of out of your norm to get just a hamburger, isn't it, Ezra," commented JD as he grabbed the ketchup bottle and applied a good dose of the substance on his fries.

"Ah . . . Mr. Dunne, every so often one has to splurge," replied the Pit Boss before taking a bite of his burger. A smile tugged at his lips as he chewed and then swallowed. "Delicious!"

The sound of a ringing cell phone interrupted the lunch and the seven men reached for their phones to see whose it was.

"It's mine," said Buck as he flipped it open and answered it. "Hello. Hey Charlie, what's up? I don't think I've got a whale coming in today. . ."

Charlie's next words caused the Hospitality Host to forget his lunch as he said, "Mr. Smith is here . . . in town? And you saw him getting into the Palms' limo? Shit. . . ." Buck ran a hand through his hair as he ending the conversation, "Thanks for the heads up, Charlie, I'm on it. . ."

After hanging up the phone, Chris asked, "Bad news?"

"You could say," replied Buck as he removed his napkin from his lap and placed it over his half eaten sandwich and stood. "One of Montecito's whales was seen getting into the Palms' limo. I need to find out why he went to the Palms instead of here and try to persuade him to come back. . ."

"Good luck," said JD.

"Catch you all later," continued Buck before heading out of the restaurant.

Unfortunately the group was interrupted again a few moments later when Chris, Vin, and JD received a message through their security communication devices. "Mr. Larabee . . . we have a situation in the convention rooms with some missing merchandise. . ."

Knowing they were shorthanded in the security control room, Chris replied, "We'll check into it. Thanks Barry."

"Sorry to cut this short but it looks like we have some missing merchandise. . ." said Chris as he placed his napkin on his plate and stood. Vin and JD quickly took several last bites of their burgers before standing and following Chris out.

"Well, gentlemen, I do hate to cut this short but I should return to my duties as well," stated Ezra placing his napkin of his plate and standing.

After the Pit Boss departed Alice came by with the bill, Nathan said, "Well, it looks like it's just the two of us. . ."

"You know they always seem to do this to us," commented Josiah. "How about if we settle the usual way?" He held up his left hand.

Nathan nodded as he held up his right.

Josiah nodded. "Ok . . . here we go . . . one . . . two . . . three. . ."

"Damn," swore Nathan softly as his rock lost to Josiah's paper. "How about the best two out of three?" suggested Nathan.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Chris came to a halt outside the convention rooms when he saw a knot of men all dressed in black suits waiting outside of room three. From the expressions on their faces none of them were very happy. It was then that he remembered that this was the undertakers' convention. No wonder they all looked so somber.


"Mr. Larabee," Drew, the new events planner, looked relieved to see the cavalry show up. "This is Russell Crowe, the coordinator for the undertakers' convention."


JD's eyebrows shot up at the mention of the name. "Like the actor? Wow! That is so cool."

"It has its moments," Russell said, with a hint of a smile. "But my friends call me Lurch."


"You mean as in; bu du du dum, 'snap snap'," JD asked as he snapped his fingers twice.


Lurch actually laughed this time. "I mean just like that."


JD grinned as he looked up at the blond man, who was undoubtedly even taller than Buck, and all dressed in black. "Cool!"


"What seems to be the problem, Mr. Crowe?" Chris jumped in before JD could let his enthusiasm run too rampant.


"Please, call me Lurch. I've grown rather fond of the nickname." He winked in JD's direction causing the youngest member of security to grin. "It seems we are missing part of our merchandise for the displays."


"What's missing?" Vin spoke up for the first time, pulling a pad from his pocket to take notes.


"Well, we have a couple things missing. Two cases of coffin pillows and a case of designer coffin handles." Lurch frowned and shook his head. "I can't figure what anyone would want with them, besides us of course."


"Tell him," one of the other undertakers nudged Lurch and nodded toward Chris.


"Tell me what?" Chris looked from one man to the other.


"My associates were of mixed feelings about telling what we found in our room instead of our items. Some wanted to keep what we got, and others wanted to return it. The honest ones won out." Lurch chuckled. "We found three kegs of beer."


"Ahhhh, I see." Chris started to get an idea of what happened. "If you'll give us a few minutes I think we can straighten this out. We'll be right back." He motioned for Drew, Vin and JD to follow him.


"So, what are you thinking?" Vin fell in at Chris's side as they headed down the hall to the next convention room.


Chris didn't have to answer. Before they got to the door, the doors burst open and a very upset group came barreling into the hall.


"Whoa, there." Vin held up a hand to slow their progress. "Where's the fire?"


"There's goin' to be more than fire if we don't get our beer," Bud Sharp, the head of the beer pong convention, practically growled.


"Let me guess, you have some boxes that don't belong to you in there?" Chris asked.


"Yeah. How did you know that?"


"Seems we have a mix up with a delivery." Chris tried not to grin. "Your beer ended up at the undertakers' convention and you got their coffin pillows and coffin handles."


Bud shivered slightly and made a face. "You mean that's what's in those boxes in there?"


"Yup," Vin added. "We'll get this straightened out right away." He stepped slightly away to make a call.


"I apologize for the mix up, Mr. Sharp." Drew was literally wringing his hands. "I don't know what could have happened that such a mistake occurred."


Chris watched Vin end his call and rejoin the group. "So, what's the story?"


"Seems the delivery orders didn't get updated when the room assignments changed. Jack told Jimmy about the change, but he kinda had his mind on other things. He'd just got a call that his wife went into labor and was headed to the hospital. He just got into too big of a hurry." Vin grinned. "It is their first baby."


Bud's expression softened. "Oh well, mistakes happen. I remember I was pretty addled when I got that call when my first was born. My boss drove me to the hospital so I'd be sure to get there in one piece." He chuckled at the memory.


"Thank you, for understanding," Chris held out a hand and Bud accepted it. "We'll get everything straightened out right away. JD, would you go around and tell Mr. Crowe that his items will be there shortly and someone will pick up the kegs."


"Sure thing." He hurried off back in the direction they had come from.


"I already asked Jack to send someone to switch these things around," Vin commented.


"Thank you," Bud responded. "If any of you want to come and watch the tournament, you're welcome to come."


"We'll keep that in mind. If you need anything else, don't hesitate to ask," Chris added, before excusing himself to go back to security, leaving Vin to be sure things were sorted out.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Ezra was patrolling the casino area, monitoring his employees as well as the guests very closely. Pausing for a moment, he touched his stomach that was starting to ache. Taking a steady breath he figured it must have been something he ate earlier that didn't agree with him.

On his way to the gift shop to pick up a roll of Tums for his stomach, Ezra was detoured when he noticed something unusual at one of the blackjack tables. Tilting his head, he squinted as he glanced down at the elderly woman's bid -- four mentos and five quarters. When he glanced at the dealer, he shrugged as if to say he had no idea what the woman was doing.

Smiling through his stomach ache, Ezra held out his hand as he said, "Good afternoon, I am Ezra Standish, the Pit Boss at the Montecito. Can I assist you, Mrs. . . ."

"Ms. Martha Penelope," said the grey haired woman as she accepted his hand. "My dear Rupert passed away five years ago . . . we had been married forty wonderful years. . ."

"My sincerest condolences, Ms. Penelope," replied Ezra.

"Thank you, young man," said the older woman as patted his hand.

"Well, Ms. Penelope, I'm sorry to say we do not accept those items you have placed down for bids," explained Ezra.

"Is there something wrong with my chips?" asked the older woman.

"Well, Ma'am," said the southern Pit Boss. "Those items are not chips."

"Not chips?" Reaching for her purse that was on her lap, she opened it up and pulled out her eyeglasses. Putting them on, she looked at her 'bids'. A deep blush covered Martha's cheeks. "Oh my, now that is embarrassing, isn't it?"

Ezra smiled.

"You must have thought I was a crazy old woman?" asked Martha.

"Not at all, Ma'am," replied Ezra. "Just a dear lady who needed her spectacles."

"Thank you, Mr. Standish," said Martha as she patted his arm. "It is nice to see there are still gentlemen around. . ."

"My pleasure, Ma'am," said Ezra. "I hope you enjoy your stay at the Montecito."

Departing the blackjack table, he continued on his original path to Gloria Potter's gift shop to purchase some off-the-shelf relief for his aching stomach.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Buck stepped through the doors at the Palms and headed straight to the casino. He knew from past experience that Bubba Smith always headed straight for the craps tables. Sure enough, there he was waiting his turn with the dice. Buck scanned the crowd around the table and saw no sign of the Palms' host anywhere. She'd just made a big mistake in leaving a new whale alone.


"Mr. Smith," Buck said as he squeezed in beside his wayward whale.


"How ya doin', Buck?" Bubba asked and then frowned. "Whatcha doin' at the Palms?"


"I could ask you the same thing." Buck patted the 'good ole boy' on the back. "I thought we had a good thing going?"


"Ah, well, ya see, I got this here call from Brandi offerin' me a free deluxe suite if I'd come and check out the Palms. Just thought it was worth checkin' out is all." Bubba watched the play intently as he talked.


"And where is Miss Brandi now?" Buck made a point of searching the crowd.


"Not rightly sure, but she'll be back."


"Now Bubba," Buck poured on the charm. "Would I leave you to fend for yourself with no way to reach me?"


"No, I reckon you wouldn't at that," he said as he watched the dice bank off the back wall of the table.


"If it's a deluxe suite you want, I can get you better than that at the Montecito. I can even arrange to have someone with you at all times to take care of anything you need, get you food, drinks, whatever, so you don't even have to leave the table."


"I don't know. I kinda promised Brandi I'd give this place a chance."


"Why don't you tell me what you'd really like?" Buck bobbed his eyebrows suggesting 'anything' was possible.


"Well, there is one thing. . ."


Ten minutes and two phone calls later, Buck and Bubba stood in front of the Palms waiting for Buck's car, when a very agitated red-head stormed out the doors toward them.


"My my, if it isn't Miss Brandi the missing casino host," Buck grinned at the pretty woman.


"Oh, can it, Buck. You know that look doesn't work on me. What do you think you are doing here?" She stomped one foot and crossed her arms across her chest.


"Just retrieving Mr. Smith. It seems that he ended up at the wrong casino. Ain't that right, Bubba?" Buck grinned and winked knowingly at his whale.


"Yeah, Buck's always taken good care of me." Bubba lowered his gaze sheepishly, just as Buck's car was delivered and the valet opened the passenger door for him. Bubba slid quickly into the seat, avoiding any further explanation.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

After getting Bubba settled at his favorite table, with his favorite dealer, and a server at his beck and call, Buck made sure Bubba had his cell number and the dealer knew to call him immediately if Bubba needed anything, Buck left the casino.


His first stop was to complete the arrangements to fulfill Bubba's special request, followed by a side trip into 21 for another attempt at getting something to eat.


Off at their usual table, Chris and Nathan sat having pie and coffee. Chris waved Buck over to join them. "I hear you got your whale back."


"Yeah, I did," Buck took a seat with a great sigh of relief. "Bubba is still so new to his money that he tends to sell himself cheap."


"How did they get him away from you to begin with?" Nathan asked, but had to wait for Buck to place his order to get his answer.


"Offered him a deluxe suite." He took a long swallow of his Dr. Pepper before continuing. "Can you believe that?"


"I see what you mean about selling himself cheap," Nathan agreed. "He hasn't learned to play the comp game yet."


"So what did it take to get him back?" Chris asked.


"Not much. Just a reminder that I take better care of him, a better room than they offered, and a date." Buck left it hang knowing that his friends would not let it stop there.


"A date? With who? You?" Nathan asked, grinning.


"Nope, but you're warm." Buck bobbed his eyebrows suggestively.


"Cut the crap," Chris ordered. "Who did you promise him a date with?"


"As much as I'd love to see your expression if I said it was you, Stud, it wasn't. He wanted a date with ACDC."


"Drew?" Nathan asked.


"You had better have checked this out with Drew first," Chris warned. "Just because he is gay, doesn't mean you can take advantage of him."


"Bi," Nathan corrected.


"Yeah, I know he claims to swing both ways, but I've never seen him show any interest in the ladies. I'm with Chris. I think he's all gay."


"It isn't really our business about his preferences," Chris continued. "You did ask Drew first, right?"


"Yes, and he said he'd be glad to if Bubba would be here on Monday when he is off work. So we have a whale staying two extra nights just for a date with ACDC."


"You really shouldn't call him that," Nathan admonished. "He might be offended if hears it."


"Nah. I've called him that to his face, and he laughs about it. He thinks it's funny that it is not only a play on his initials, Andrew (Drew) Cabbot, and that it describes him too."


Buck took a couple uninterrupted bites of his burger before looking up again. "Speak of the devil. Hey, DC! Over here!" The men made room for the object of their discussion to join them.


"Drew, Buck says you've agreed to help him with his whale," Chris probed.


"You mean, Mr. Smith? Sure. I've noticed him around before. I kinda thought he leaned my way, but I wasn't quite sure." Drew blushed slightly, admitting that he had more than just a passing interest in Bubba Smith. "No way would I approach him though. If I was wrong and offended him it would look bad on the Montecito."


"I just wanted to be sure Buck didn't push you into anything." Chris seemed satisfied that Drew was a willing participant.


"The way that man fills out a T-shirt and those tight jeans? You're joking, right?" Drew's eyes sparkled at the thought.


"Yeah, well, don't know about you but I gotta get back to work." Nathan made good his escape followed a few seconds later by Chris.


"Was it something I said?" Drew asked, just as the waitress laid the check down in front of Buck.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Inez had just delivered another round of drinks to several members of the beer pong team and grabbed the chance to duck into the back for a drink and a quick nibble of something to eat. Everyone seemed to be settled in their various groups, scattered around the lounge. She figured she could sneak in five minutes. It was going to be a long night, since her server had called in sick.

She had barely taken two bites of the cold sandwich she had tossed together when a commotion out front had her sighing as she laid the sandwich down to go investigate.

"Hey! Can't you keep it down? We are trying to watch the end of the match." Charles, a member of one of the Ping Pong teams, yelled across the bar at the Beer Pong group.


"What? You have to hear the ball bounce to tell what's going on?" Bud, head of the Beer Pong players, countered. "You should try a man's game instead of the pansy-assed game you play."


"Pansy-assed!" Charles lunged to his feet and turned facing the group on the other side of the room. "Who you calling pansy-assed?"


"Nobody," Bud shouted back. "Just that wussy game of yours. Anyone can just hit a ball back and forth. It takes a real man for Beer Pong."


"Uh huh . . . whatever. You can think whatever you want, but at least ours is a legitimate Olympic sport," Charles shot back.


"Big deal. So you get a medal or a ribbon. So do we, but we get to win money too." Bud took a long pull from his bottle of beer and then let out a rumbling belch.


"Gross! You're just disgusting!" Several members of the Ping Pong group turned up their noses at the display of bad manners.


"You take that back!" One of the younger Beer Pong players jumped to Bud's defense. "You're just too anal retentive to know how to relax and have some fun." He had no more than gotten the words out of his mouth when Charles lunged toward him, clearly intent on causing some kind of bodily damage.


Sitting near the center, along the back wall, four members of the undertakers' convention were watching intently. Looking back and forth from group to group as each verbal volley was thrown. Suddenly, one of the older men started laughing, causing his colleagues to look at him questioningly. "Don't you see it?" he asked. When the others shook their heads he continued, "It is just like watching a PING PONG match." When his words sank in the whole group started to snicker, as they all began to exaggerate the side to side movement in perfect unison.


"GENTLEMEN!" Inez stepped between the two groups holding her arms out to ward off the two opposing forces. "ENOUGH!" When the two groups paused, she took a deep breath and continued. "Things are just getting way too personal and out of control."


"Tell him that!" Bud growled. "He's the one that started hurling the insults.


"Yeah, well you're the ones who have no common courtesy," Charles countered the attack.


Inez nodded to her bartender who immediately picked up the phone to call security. The situation could deteriorate into violence very quickly.


The first member of security arrived within minutes to find Inez standing her ground between the two opposing forces, although she had to get physical a couple times and actually push the guys back into their respective lines.


Buck Wilmington made his way between the two opposing teams to Inez's side. "What seems to be the problem here?"


"It seems that the little boys here," she pointed to both groups of men, "don't know how to play nice."


Buck shook his head and tsked. "Boys, Boys, what are we going to do with you?"


Immediately, both teams launched into their sides of the story at the same time. Buck held up both hands signaling for silence, but it was a wasted effort. Sticking his index finger and thumb to his lips he whistled shrilly startling the men into silence. "Inez, why don't you tell me what these fellas have been up to?"


"Apparently, the competition does not stay in the game rooms. They each think their group has a biggest claim on being a legitimate game." Inez looked at the leaders of both groups and shook her head in disappointment. "They are acting like spoiled children, who are on the verge of a playground fight."


"Ah, I see." Buck glanced toward the door when he saw a couple other members of security moving into the room, and he motioned for them to hold back. "Well, gentlemen, since it seems that you want to act like boys instead of adults, our response should be along that same line. So, if you guys can't play nice, then you can all go to yours rooms and be grounded for the rest of the night."


"Grounded?" Bud and Charles asked in unison.


"You can't do that to us," Charles continued.


"As a member of security, I most certainly can if I feel that you're going to continue to create a disturbance." Buck grinned at the chagrined looks on the men's faces.


"Now, which will it be fellas? Play nice or get sent to bed without your nightcap?"


The two leaders looked at each other and sighed. "Play nice," they both said, and shook hands.


"Good. Now isn't that a whole lot better?" Buck winked at Inez who was grinning back at him. "But, you boys keep in mind, if I get another call that you are fighting, you won't get a second chance. Why don't you all head on out of here until things are settled down good?" He watched the subdued men head for the door.


"Thank you, Senor Buck." Inez smiled up at him. "I was afraid they were going to end up tearing up my lounge."


"Would I let that happen to you?" Buck put an arm around the pretty Mexican woman's shoulders and gave her an affectionate squeeze.


"Fortunately for me, no." She eased out of the circle of his arm and took a couple steps away. "Maybe now I can finish the break I started to take."


Buck watched her go, and grinned to himself. "Well stud," he said under his breath, "yer wearin' her down." He chuckled and waved the remaining security personnel out of the lounge and followed not far behind them.


Inside, one of the undertakers sighed. "That was fun while it lasted. Now what do we do?"


"I don't know. Let's go see if we can get in to the Blue Man Group." Their small group got up, leaving the money for their tab, and filed out of the lounge headed for the show.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

It had been a long day, thought Ezra Standish as he arrived at his apartment with his dry cleaning in one hand and take-out sushi and his mail in the other. At least his earlier stomach pain had gone away. Now he could enjoy a leisurely and quiet evening at home with some good food and a movie.

Placing his sushi and correspondence on the kitchen counter first, he then headed back to his bedroom to deposit his dry cleaning in his closet. Removing his tie first, he hung it with the rest of his collection and then slipped off his tailored Coppley suit jacket and placed it onto a hanger, picking a stray piece of lint from the sleeve before closing the closet door.

Humming softly, Ezra undid the top couple buttons to his shirt and then rolled up his sleeves as he headed back into the kitchen. Grabbing a plate from the cabinet, he placed his sushi on it and then grabbed a bottle of imported beer from the refrigerator. With his mail under one arm and his dinner and beer in his hands, he headed into his living room.

Settling onto his leather couch, he placed his beer on the coffee table and flipped on the TV. Watching the evening news he enjoyed his sushi that had just the right amount of wasabi kick to it while going through his mail that consisted of the typical bills and catalogs.

Deciding it was time to switch to a movie, Ezra pulled "For Whom the Bell Tolls" from his classical movie collection and inserted the disc into his DVD player. Swinging his legs up onto the couch, he got comfortable as the opening credits began to play.

Halfway into the movie, the faint sound of Ezra snoring could be heard as he slept soundly . . .

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

"You know, Chuck," started Bud who was seated on the floor in the convention room.

"Charles. . . . it's Charles not Chuck," corrected the Ping Pong tournament contestant who was seated next to him.

"You know, Charles," started Bud over again. "Ping pong is a pretty difficult sport." After their minor disagreement in Mystique the two groups decided to follow Security's recommendation and 'play nice'. One thing led to another and the two groups were back in their convention rooms attempting to play the other's sport.

Charles nodded as he replied, "The same could be said about beer pong . . . I didn't realize just how much skill was required in that game . . ."

"It's definitely more than just drinking beer," chimed Bud.

"Definitely," repeated Charles.

"Hey . . . any chance we can petition the Olympic committee to make beer pong a sport in the next summer games?" asked Bud, suddenly excited at the prospect of making the game an Olympic sport.

Charles looked over at his new friend, his face serious as he considered the man's question. Finally he said, "Not a chance in hell. . ." The two men broke into beer-induced laughter.

"Hey . . . this side door is unlocked," announced Steve. "Let's go investigate what the undertakers have in their room."

"Alright!" said both men as they staggered back onto their feet and joined the others to explore the neighboring room.

Back in the main security office, Vin and JD were on the last leg of their shift with only an hour left as they monitored the various security cameras.

"What the hell?" muttered Vin as he sat up in his chair. "Check out camera eight," instructed the Texan.

JD squinted as his gaze focused on the monitor in question. "Is that the beer pong and ping pong guys?"


"What do they think they're doing?" asked JD.

"They're havin' coffin races," announced Vin. Standing quickly and grabbing his suit coat, he said, "Come on . . ."

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

The race was in full swing with each group having their own coffin seated on a casket cart with wheels. One man was seated inside the open coffin while the others were along the sides, pushing it down the hallway as fast as they could.

When they spotted Montecito's security at the far end of the hallway, Steve yelled, "It's SECURITY . . . everyone scram!!!"

The men pushed the coffins one last time in the direction of the security personnel while taking off in the opposite direction, leaving their buddies seated in the coffins to fend for themselves.

"No you don't," said Vin as he grabbed Bud who was trying to jump out of his coffin.

Meanwhile JD captured the other casket 'driver', Charles. "Looks like your buddies were pretty quick to leave you in the dust, huh?"

"I guess it's everyman for himself," commented Vin as they escorted the two men back to the security offices. Meanwhile several members of the security team stayed back to move the coffins back to the undertakers' convention spaces.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

"So, can you guys tell me what you were thinking? Stealing a couple coffins from the neighboring convention room and racing them down the hallway?" asked Vin as he talked to the two men who they caught in the interrogation room.

"Well, that security guy told us to do it," responded Bud in a slurred voice.

Vin raised an eyebrow. "Oh really? What security guy would that be?"

"That tall one with the mustache," replied Charles as Bud nodded in agreement and said, "Yep, that was him."

"And just exactly what did he tell you?" asked a very skeptical Vin.

"He told us to play nice . . . so we were," replied Bud.

"Yep, we were," chimed Charles. "I learned how to play beer pong and my pal, Bud, here learned how to play ping pong."

"It's a lot harder than you think," countered Bud.

Rubbing his forehead, Vin said, "You two wait here for a moment. . ." Leaving the interrogation room with a security officer posted at the door, Vin headed to the bull pen area. Head of the Undertakers' convention, Russell Crowe, aka Lurch, was there with Chris and JD.

"What did you find out from 'em?" asked Chris.

"That they were trying to 'play nice'," replied Vin as he tried not to laugh. "Oh . . . and too much alcohol is a bad thing . . . They are going to have some major hangovers in the morning."

"Well, Mr. Crowe, do you want to press charges?" asked Chris. They had to get the man out of bed and inform him several of his coffins had been taken from their convention room.

"No . . . I don't think that's necessary," replied Russell. "It was just a harmless stunt and nothing was damaged."

Chris nodded. "I appreciate your understanding in this matter and we apologize that your room was not properly secured for the evening. We are looking into the matter and will make sure that it doesn't happen again.

"Thank you, Mr. Larabee," said the tall undertaker before leaving the security spaces.

Chris nodded. "Vin . . . JD . . . why don't you escort our two drunken casket racers back to their rooms?"

"Will do," said the two men in unison before they headed for the interrogation room.

A few moments later, Chris watched as Vin and JD escorted the two very intoxicated men down the hallway.

Charles and Bud were leaning against each other for support as they swayed back and forth singing "Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do, watcha gonna do when they come for you. . ."

Shaking his head, Chris returned back to his office, hoping the rest of his shift would be quiet.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Ezra awoke in the middle of the night with an intense sharp pain radiating from his ribcage to around his back. Groaning softly he sat up, swinging his legs to the floor, as he pressed a hand to his aching side. The pain from earlier was back but this time it was a hundred times worst.

Must be a stomach virus, thought Ezra. He had heard it was going around.

Slowly standing, he carefully made his way to the bathroom, opening the medicine cabinet and removing the bottle of Tums. Flipping the top up, he removed three tablets and popped them into his mouth, hoping relief would come quickly.

Making his way back to his bedroom, he changed into a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt and then settled onto his bed, piling several pillows behind him. Unfortunately no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't find a comfortable position, the throbbing pain keeping him awake.

It was several hours later when the discomfort finally subsided and Ezra was able to fall asleep.

When his alarm clock went off to signal the start of a new day, Ezra groaned. Reaching over, his hand silenced the clock with a press of the button. Sighing softly he opened his eyes. The pain was now a dull ache, definitely not as intense as earlier.

Knowing his second-in-command, Cheryl Tingle, was on a much needed vacation, Ezra knew he had to go to work. Unfortunately, there was no way he could call in sick today.

Getting out of bed, he headed to the lavatory. Maybe a hot shower would help him feel better, he thought, as he started his day.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

"What the . . .?" JD stared harder at the Monitor in front of him. "Vin, do you think that guy is sick?" He pointed to the guy on his hands and knees in the hall outside the convention rooms.


"Maybe drunk?" Vin suggested.


"I don't know. If he is, he must be having hallucinations. He keeps trying to pick something up but nothing's there." JD watched the man for a couple more minutes and finally the man appeared to give up on whatever he was doing, stood up and left the area.


"That was weird."


"JD, weird and the Montecito go hand in hand. Haven't you figured that out yet?" Vin chuckled and turned back to watch his own monitor. He had been observing one player who had been on a winning streak that seemed just a little too good to be true.


"Now what?" JD watched as a pretty blonde looked around and then squatted down in the same area the man had been a couple minutes before. Once again she went through the motions of trying to pick something up, her expression registering more and more frustration the longer she tried.


Vin glanced back at JD's screen and frowned. "Okay, now that is weird, even for the Montecito. Let's go check it out."


When they reached the area outside the convention rooms, they saw a little old lady kicking at something with the toe of her shoe. When she looked up and saw the two men headed directly for her, she took one last glance at the floor, sighed and walked away. It took Vin a moment to see what had caught her attention. There on the floor was a $100 casino chip. The color matched the floor so exactly that you wouldn't see it until you were right over it and could see the writing on the chip.


"Okay, that explains the fascination with the floor." JD laughed and bent to pick up the chip. "What the hell?" He tried again but still couldn't get hold of the chip. "I can't get hold of it." He got down on his hands and knees and leaned closer to the floor to look at the chip from different angles. "It is just a regular chip, but I just can't pick it up."


"JD, that's crazy." Vin knelt down and tried himself, but he had no better luck. "Okay, it has to be glued down. Go get a cup of water and some paper towels, would you? Maybe we can soak it loose."


Half an hour later, Vin stood scratching his head and staring at the chip that was still stuck tight to the floor. He had sent for maintenance and they had tried every solvent they had, but nothing had budged the chip. "So, any other suggestions?"


"We are going to have to take up the tiles and replace it," Henry said. He looked to his fellow maintenance crew who all nodded in agreement. "We can't do that until the weekend crowd is gone though. When we do this not only will be have to replace this tile, but the whole hall is going to have to be rewaxed, so it all looks the same. "


"So when do you think you can get it done?" Vin asked.


"Sunday night. The overnight sift should be able to get it done then."


"Okay, then we'll have to keep a close watch on this area until then. Watching people try to pick it up can be funny, but not if they resort to vandalizing the floor to get it." Vin took one last look at the chip and shook his head. "Who would do something like that?"


"I don't know, but I'll try to check the tapes to see if I can find out who it was." JD fell into step with Vin as they headed back to security to report the situation to Chris.


Once back in the surveillance room JD set to work on trying to track down the culprit. He started from the time they had first seen the man trying to pick up the chip and worked backward, but nothing jumped out at him to indicate who had placed the chip. It was as if it had just materialized there. It was impossible to actually see the chip on the monitor since it blended so well with the floor, but he could see nothing suspicious on the tapes that might give a clue as to who it could have been. Someone had to have timed it perfectly so he, or she, was hidden behind something, a crowd, or something being moved through the area.


"Nothing," JD reported as Chris leaned over his shoulder. "If they were behind something then we might not ever figure out who it was. I've tried different camera but the different angles done help any. "


"Good job trying, JD." Chris patted him on the shoulder. "All we can do now is make sure no trouble comes from this until maintenance can get it removed Sunday night. Just keep an eye on that area."


After his boss had left, JD grinned. "Hey, Vin?"


"What?" Vin noted the sly grin on the younger man's face. "Oh, no. I've seen that look and it usually gets us into trouble."


"No, this won't. I swear." JD's grin grew wider. "Let's make a tape of the people trying to pick up the chip. We can edit it to the funniest parts and show it at the staff Christmas party."


Vin thought about that for a moment and then grinned. "JD, there might be hope for you yet."

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Ezra leaned against the casino pillar as he rested for a moment. He was now regretting his decision about coming into work. Finding his earlier reprieve from the pain short lived as it seemed to have returned in full force.

Rubbing his brow, he realized his forehead was warm. He must have a fever.

From the security control room, Chris Larabee stared at the monitors intently. Something was wrong with Ezra. It was obvious the man could barely stand upright. Why the hell he came to work was beyond him. Retrieving his cell phone from his coat pocket, he hit the speed dial number to call Montecito's on-call physician.

"What's up Chris?" answered Nathan, his phone display alerting him before answering that it was the Security Chief.

"Need you to check on Ezra . . ." explained Chris.

"What's wrong with him?" replied Nathan as he grabbed his medical bag and headed out of his private office located in the hotel.

"Not sure but he's looking bad," stated Chris. "He's near the roulette tables."

"Understand," said Nate. "I'm on my way . . . will let you know what I find out. . ."

It didn't take long for Nathan to get to the casino and when he spotted Ezra, he immediately knew something was wrong. Quickening his pace he headed over to the Pit Boss.

"Hey Ezra, what's going on?" asked Nathan as he tried to figure out what was wrong.

"Mr. Jackson, to what do we owe the pleasure of your appearance here in the casino?" asked Ezra as he tried to ignore the pain in his stomach and back.

"Was in the area and I figured I would stop by," explained Nathan as he noticed a yellowish tint to Ezra's complexion. "Are you feeling alright, Ezra? You don't look so good. . ."

"I assure you I'm fine . . . just a minor stomach virus . . ." replied the Pit Boss who was finding it more and more difficult to focus.

"Maybe you should take a break . . . get a cup of coffee or some tea," suggested a worried Nathan.

Just the thought of drinking or eating anything turned Ezra's stomach and he suddenly felt the urge to be sick. "Excuse me," he said before darting down the hall to the nearest men's room.

Nathan followed Ezra and found him the men's stall being sick. When Ezra finally emerged, Nathan handed him a handful of wet paper towels to wipe his mouth.

"Where does it hurt?" asked Nate softly, noticing his friend's brow etched in pain.

Ezra gestured to his ribcage and then back.

"How long has it hurt?"

"Woke up last night in pain," replied Ezra. "Lasted several extremely long hours before dissipating. It started back up an hour ago. . ."

"Ok, we're going to the hospital," stated Nathan as he took the sick man's upper arm.

"Is that really necessary for a stomach virus?" asked Ezra who really was not looking forward to a visit at the medical facility.

"Yes it is really necessary, Ezra," explained Nathan. "Cause I think it's something more serious."

"More serious?"

"I think you might have gallstones and we need to get you to the hospital so they can run some tests," clarified Nathan. "Now you either go willingly with me or I call for an ambulance and we wheel you out on a gurney for all to see. . ."

"You wouldn't. . ." said Ezra who was not happy about being forced to go to the hospital.

Nathan pulled out his cell phone and said, "Oh I would. . ."

"Alright . . . I'll go with you," relented Ezra. "But I want it noted that I'm not happy about it."

"So noted," said Nathan as he tried not to smile.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

With his hands full of Chinese take out, JD headed through the 'employee's only' door and down the corridor to the security offices. The sudden sound of his Blackberry beeping had caused the young man to stop in his tracks as he shifted all the bags to one arm and began to search for the electronic device.

"There you are!" said JD triumphantly when he found it. A frown creased his brow when he read the screen. "That can't be good," he mumbled softly as he took down the hallway in a sprint.

Rushing into the main security office, he found Chris and Vin gathered around his beeping computer.

"Why is it making that sound?" asked Chris.

JD dropped the Chinese food into Vin's arms and took a seat in his chair. His fingers flying over the keyboard to unlock his screen as he explained, "I had set up a new computer program tying in our facial recognition system with the various most wanted lists from the FBI and local PD."

"Why didn't I know about this?" asked Chris who was not pleased at JD's explanation.

The computer specialist turned red as he explained, "Well, I wanted to test it out . . . work out the kinks . . . before letting you know. Anyway, it looks like we got a hit. . ."

"A hit?" repeated Vin.

"Yeah . . . one of FBI's most wanted is here in the hotel," explained JD.

"Who?" asked Chris, not liking the sound of JD's explanation.

"Natalie Rhea Lambert," said JD as he brought the woman's 'most wanted' picture up onto the screen. "She's wanted for five bank robberies and murder in Florida."

"Where is she?" asked Vin as he studied her picture intently.

"The spa," replied JD as he brought up the security footage of the area.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

The security contingent met outside of Montecito's spa, pausing for a moment as Chris showed the picture of the fugitive in question. "Make sure she doesn't get passed you," he instructed.

When his men were in place Chris lead Vin and JD inside and went straight to the counter where Spa Manager, Polly, was checking the appointment book.

"Mr. Larabee, you come let Polly give you pedicure?" the oriental woman asked.

"No, Polly. We need your help with something." Chris laid the photo on the counter for her to see. "Have you seen this woman in here today?"

"Oh sure. She asked for the works. Been a long time since she had wax." Polly wrinkled her nose at the thought. "She so hairy she give new meaning to the word beava."

As JD blushed at the implication, Chris cleared his throat before pressing forward. "Where is she now?"

"She in spa, in mud bath. She say she got hot date tonight." Polly frowned when the men turned away from her and headed toward the door to the mud room. Before she could get around the counter to try to stop them Chris was opening the door.

"Polly, stay out here," Vin instructed.

The three moved quietly to where the woman lay immersed in mud up to her neck, cucumber slices on her eyes, and her hair wrapped in a towel. No way to tell like this if she was indeed the fugitive they were looking for. She had signed in as Natalie Lamb, having only slightly altered her last name.

Chris could tell by her slow breathing that she was very relaxed and he hoped that would work in his favor. "Ms. Lambert?"

"Hummmm? Yes?" she responded sleepily. She gave a slight gasp when she became suddenly alert upon realizing the mistake she had just made.

"I'm afraid I must inform you that you are under arrest." Chris keyed his earpiece to signal his man in the surveillance room to call the FBI and get someone down here ASAP. He had confirmed that they did truly have the right person and avoiding calling out the cavalry for a wild goose chase. "Now, you can make this easy for all of us, by simply getting out of the mud and putting your hands over your head."

Trying to sound nonchalant, Natalie removed the cucumber slices and stared up at the faces above her. "You do realize that I am naked, right?"

"Won't be anything that we haven't all seen before," Chris commented. "Considering the charges on your warrants, we can't afford to worry about your modesty."

"Fine." Natalie stood, allowing the mud to slide down her body and held her hands out for one of the men to help her step out of the large vat. "Can I at least have a towel?"

JD stepped a few feet away to grab one of the over-sized towels, drawing Vin's attention away from their prisoner for just an instant, allowing Natalie the chance she needed. She lunged toward the door. Vin was the closest and quickly closed the distance between them only to lose his grip on her mud slick skin which allowed her to slide right through his arms. She'd managed to take several more awkward steps, slipping in the mud she'd gotten all over the tile floor, before Chris tackled her to the floor.

"Get off of me!"

"Not on your life," Chris growled as he struggled to keep his grip on her. He'd managed to pin her face down on the cold tile, and now straddled her, trying to pin her arms while holding her lower half down with his weight.

"JD, let the others know we have her, and to send the feds straight in here."

"Get off! You're hurting me!" Natalie squirmed beneath him, but Chris did not slacken his grip.

"You'll just have to live with it, until the feds get here. I am not even loosening my grip enough for someone to cuff you." Chris settled in for the wait, knowing the FBI agents would be there within minutes.

"Now if that ain't a sight!" Buck's suggestive wolf whistle had all heads turning in his direction. "Since when did we start having mud wrestling here at the Montecito, and why wasn't I invited?"


Half an hour later, Natalie Lambert was rinsed, clothed, and being led out of the Montecito by one of the agents sent to investigate. Agent Jeffrey Talbot stayed behind a moment. "Chris, I don't know how to thank you. She's been evading capture for months."


"Don't thank me. Thank JD. He's the one who came up with the idea to tie the most wanted database to our facial recognition software." Chris clasped his young tech expert on the arm.


"Thank you," Jeffrey said to JD and held out his hand for a handshake.


After watching Jeffrey leave Vin and Chris surveyed the damage done to their clothes and shook their heads. This would probably never come out of the fabric.


Buck stood watching and laughing. "Well studs, looks like you had a hard time hanging onto that little lady. If you had that much trouble with mud, I'd stay away from Jell-o."

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

The soft sound of approaching footsteps caused Nathan and Josiah to look up from where they were seated in the waiting room. Josiah had accompanied Nathan in escorting Ezra to the hospital, knowing how much the Pit Boss hated medical facilities and how he might try to talk his way out of it. Plus, he too was worried about his friend.

"Dr. Johnson," said Nathan as both men stood. "How's Ezra doing?"

"Well, Dr. Jackson, you were correct in your initial assessment," replied the female doctor. "Mr. Standish has an inflamed gallbladder with multiple gallstones. One of which is lodged in his bile duct."

"That doesn't sound good," chimed Josiah.

"Indeed," continued Dr. Johnson. "I am also worried about his blood pressure which is slightly elevated . . ."

"What's the game plan?" asked Nathan.

"Right now we're prepping him for surgery to remove the gallbladder," advised Dr. Johnson.

Both men nodded. "Can we see him before he goes in?" asked Josiah.

"You have two minutes," instructed Dr. Johnson. She knew these men very well, having provided medical attention to several of them on multiple occasions.

"Thanks doc!" said Josiah as the two men followed her back through the double doors and into the pre-op room Ezra was waiting in.

"Hey Ezra, how ya doing?" asked Nathan as the two men stopped by his bedside.

"This, Mr. Jackson, is all your fault," replied Ezra through his drug-induced haze.

"What? Would you rather be bent over in severe pain instead?" asked Nate as he held back a grin.

"Is surgery really necessary?" asked Ezra as he grabbed Nathan's shirtsleeve. "Can't they give me some medication and send me on my way. . ."

"Now Ezra, you know they wouldn't do the surgery unless they really have to," chimed Josiah as he tried to calm the worried man.

"But do they have to cut me open?" asked an agitated Ezra while grabbing Nathan's hand.

"Now Ezra, it won't be like that . . . it's now done laparoscopic . . . just four tiny incisions," explained Nathan.

"You'll wait for me?" asked a groggy Ezra.

"Of course, we both will," answered Josiah.

Grabbing Josiah's hand, Ezra squeezed it. "You won't leave me here alone?"

"Not a chance," reassured Josiah as he smiled.

"'Kay," replied Ezra after a deep sigh, his eyelids suddenly getting very droopy.

"Gentleman, the procedure will take about an hour and half," said the nurse. "You can wait for your friend in the waiting room."

The two men nodded.

"Ezra, we'll see you later," said Nathan as he lightly touch his friend on the arm.

"Don't call my mother. . ." instructed Ezra before he slipped into a relaxed sleep.

"We won't," replied both men as they smiled. Walking out of the pre-op room, Josiah commented, "That really didn't sound like our Ezra."

"It's the drugs talking," explained Nathan. "I've seen it many times. . ."

As they reached the waiting area, Josiah suggested, "How about if I go get us some coffee?"

"Sounds good," replied Nate. "I'll give Chris a call and let him know what's happening."

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

"Buck, have you got a minute?" Drew found the casino host outside the convention rooms.


"Sure, AC. What's up?"


"I just need to talk to you about Mr. Smith." Drew fell into step along side Buck.


"You ain't thinkin' about backin' out on me are you?" The host looked alarmed, and motioned for Drew to follow him into the coffee shop. When the settled at a table to make it easier to carry on a discussion, he continued, "You know Bubba is really looking forward to that night. He is even extending his stay to go out with you."


"Oh, no. I wouldn't do that. I was just wondering if I was supposed to plan the evening or if Mr. Smith is planning it?" Drew looked somewhat apprehensive as he waited for the answer.


"I would say that Bubba will plan the evening since he asked you, well had me ask you for him," Buck reassured the event planner. "I'll find out for sure from him though. Okay?"


"Sure. Thanks. Oh, and could you find out how I should dress? Casual, formal, or what?" Drew smiled at the waitress and ordered an iced tea and waited for Buck to order a Dr. Pepper. "I just want to be sure everything goes okay. If he doesn't want to plan things, I can. I just need to know if I need to."


"I'll go find him as soon as I finish this drink."


The two men chatted amiably while finishing their cold drinks. When they split up, Buck went in search of his whale, and ACDC went back to check on his conventioneers.


It didn't take long for Buck to find his whale. He was right where he had left him earlier, at the craps table. He held back until the man had finished his turn with the dice before pressing in closer to Bubba. "Looks like you've been having a good run of luck."


"I was until the last half hour or so. I think I need a short break." He started to pick up the large pile of chips.


"Are you going back to the table later? If so, Mark can hold your chips for you." Buck sincerely hoped Bubba Smith planned on more playing tonight.


"You know me. I don't leave until I'm falling asleep standing up." Bubba stood up and stretched causing several joints to pop, making Buck wince at the sound.


"Since you are taking a break, I wanted to talk to you about your big date Monday evening." He caught the slightly panicked look that crossed Bubba's face just for an instant. "Nothing to worry about, Drew is still planning to go, but he was just wondering which of you was planning the evening and if you are what should he plan to wear.


"I'd like to plan the night if he doesn't mind. I want it to be really special. Do you know anything about what he likes?" Bubba headed toward the men's' room and Buck waited out side


"I don't know much about what he likes, but he strikes me as the kind of guy who just wants to be with the person he is seeing, and will be happy doin' whatever you decide on."


"Can I count on you to help me make the plans?" Bubba Smith had ideas but was not native to the area and did not know what contacts to make to get his plans nailed down.


"Absolutely, what do you have in mind?"


Half an hour later found Buck searching for Drew, and he soon found him in his office. "Hey, DC."


"Hi, Buck." Drew grinned when he saw the smug expression on the host's face. "So, what did you find out?"


"Can't tell you." Buck made a show of locking his lips and throwing away the key.


"No fair! How am I supposed to know how to prepare?"


"Easy. Your date is starting at noon. Bubba will pick you up, and he said dress very casual." Buck winked knowingly at his new friend. "And, you are supposed to bring a change of clothes for a nice night out."


"Awww, come on. I need more to go on than that," Drew huffed. "A nice night out. What's that supposed to mean? That could mean anything from good jeans to a tux."


"I can't say anymore than that, but if you are worried about the wrong clothes bring a couple sets and have him pick which will work for what he has planned." Buck chuckled under his breath, knowing that Drew was bound to enjoy his big date. "Gotta go. Catch you later." He grinned broadly at the younger man's expression and ducked out the door before he could be tempted to give away anything he shouldn't.


Secretly, Buck kind of envied Drew and his night out, although he would have chosen a female companion. Bubba had him make arrangements for a private helicopter tour to Grand Canyon, stopping on the south rim for a picnic lunch, packed by one of the Montecito's top chefs; followed by front row seats at Cirque Du Soleil. He'd had to call in more than one favor to get those since they were sold out months in advance. Then topping it all off was a catered dinner in Bubba's suite, along with some personal surprises that Bubba wouldn't even tell him. So much for trust, Buck though to himself as he hurried out of the convention area.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

The remainder of the shift was uneventful for the security team, and for the first time in weeks they all managed to get off on time. It had been a hectic day and after checking on Ezra they all headed home and to bed.


The new day started all too early for most of the Montecito security staff, but everyone showed up, with the one noticeable exception of their Pit Boss. The group gathered outside waiting for Josiah to have a minute to talk. They all wanted an update on Ezra, and they knew Josiah had stayed the night.


It was several minutes before Josiah could slip away from his crew to join his friends. "Morning!"


"Morning, Josiah. So how is our patient today?" Chris asked.


"Anything but patient," Josiah answered with a chuckle. "He is chomping at the bit to come back to work, but at the same time playing up the pain to get waited on hand and foot." He laughed outright. "I keep telling him he can't have it both ways."


"Sounds like Ezra." Buck grinned and shook his head. "Always trying to play all the angles."


"If you talk to him before we do, let him know we'll come by this afternoon when things settle down here to check on him." Chris knew all the guys would not be satisfied that Ezra was on the mend until they saw him with their own eyes.


"I'm headed back there when the rush from the check outs is over, and I'll let him know." Josiah looked up in time to see a whole group of men dressed in dark suits filed out the door, ready to leave. "Duty calls."


Chris and the rest of the security team started for the doors to go inside, when Chris felt a hand on his arm, holding him back.


"Mr. Larabee?"


"Mr. Crowe. Did you have a good stay with us?" Chris knew all too well that there had been enough glitches in the handling of the man's convention that he was certainly entitled to be unsatisfied.


"We had a very good gathering. I wanted to thank you and your team for all your help, and I thought maybe you could use this." He handed a small bottle to the security chief, smiled and hurried off to his car.


"What's that?" Vin craned his neck to look over Chris's shoulder.


Chris turned the bottle over in his hand to read the label and burst out laughing, startling his coworkers. It was such a rare sight to see him really laugh. "Solvent!"


Vin looked puzzled for a moment and then his mind put the pieces together. "He glued the chip to the floor?"


"You're kidding?" JD was slack jawed.


Vin grinned and winked. "It's always the quiet ones."

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

True to their word, the six men headed over to their friend's apartment at the Country Club Towers when their shift was over. After knocking softly on the door, they waited.

When the door swung open they were greeted by Nora and her daughter, Abigail. The seven men had saved Nora when she was kidnapped by Wickes to work at his brothel. Thankfully Nora had been reunited with her daughter, Abigail, and the two had started a new life with Nora working in Montecito's housekeeping and Abigail attending the local elementary school.

"Hi fellas, come on in," said Nora as she swung the door wider and stepped aside for the six men to enter.

"Didn't realize you all were stopping by," commented Nathan.

"Abby heard about Ezra being sick and wanted to see him," explained Nora. "She wouldn't take no for an answer. . ."

"Hey there, peanut," said Buck using the little girl's nickname as he swooped her up into his arms.

Abby giggled and then realized Ezra was in the other room and said, "Shhh . . . we have to be quiet . . . Uncle Esra is sleeping. . ." The young girl still had trouble pronouncing the Pit Boss' name.

"Have you been taking care of him?" asked Buck.

Abby nodded. "He's got a booboo on his tummy . . ."

"How about if we go check on him?" suggested Nathan.

Abby nodded and then warned, "Ok . . . but don't wake him up . . . my Mommy will be mad if you do . . ."

The men smiled as they reassured the little girl that they would be quiet.

Quietly walking into the living room, the men stopped in the entranceway as they took in the sight of Ezra sprawled out on the couch with his arm wrapped around Abby's stuffed elephant Dumbo.

"I told Uncle Esra he could borrow Dumbo until he was all better," explained Abby.

Ezra shifted on the couch, hugging the stuffed elephant tighter as he continued to sleep.

"Did you get a picture?" asked Vin softly as he leaned over towards JD.

"Yep. . ."

"It will make a nice addition to the Montecito's monthly newsletter, don'tcha think?" asked a grinning Buck as the others began to chuckle.

"Shhh. . ." said Abby as she placed a finger to her lips. "You gots to be quiet. . ."

Ezra moaned and cracked one eye open to look up at his colleagues. "What's everyone staring at?"



The Las Vegas Chronicles