Nowhere to Hide

by Sue M.

Summary: When things go bad at the Montecito... they go BAD!

Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep `em but if I could they'd be on season 10 by now!

Thanks to Phyllis and Antoinette for the amazing beta work. Thanks girls!

Thanks to Sarah for LV/AU


JD Dunne yawned. As he studied the bank of monitors, he realized he must have yawned at least half a dozen times in the last minute. He noticed Buck had entered the control room, what he hadn't expected was a smack to the back of his head.

"Hey, what the hell was that for?"

"For staying up `til stupid hours playing games on that laptop of yours."

Dunne scowled. "I'll have you know I was actually working. I do not play games on my laptop," he countered, 'I play 'em on my Wii' he whispered to himself.

Buck rounded on him. "What could be so all-fired important to keep you up 'til three in the morning?"

"How d'ya know that?" JD asked.

Buck grinned, "I didn't, but I do now."

"Is this true, JD?"

The youth jumped at the voice of Head of Security, Chris Larabee; he had thought he was meeting with Travis.

"I got carried away," JD defended.

"Don't do it again," Chris warned, "even if it is work related."

"Yes, Chris." Dunne threw a scowl at his so-called best friend which didn't go unnoticed by Larabee. Buck followed him into his office and closed the door.

"Thanks, Chris, kid'll listen to you."

The blond nodded. "I know he's doing it for us, but I draw the line at burning the candle at both ends. Now, did you want me or is this a social visit?"

"Oh, yeah, just a heads up on the Drag Queens Convention arriving today, and, "

Chris sighed, ", and?"

"The DuPonts are due to arrive."

Chris groaned, "Oh crap. I hope you give them a suitably padded cell." Buck laughed.

"Seriously, pard, if he loses big and threatens to jump again, I swear I'll push the guy off the roof myself."

Wilmington grinned, "So noted. Later, stud."

Larabee watched him go. "JD!"

Dunne trotted in, "Yeah Chris?"

"Where's Vin?"

"Walking the floor."

Chris picked up some paperwork, looking at the youth as he passed him. "I'm going to be with Travis most of the day, call me if it's urgent and only if it's urgent."

JD nodded, "Will do."


Ezra surveyed the room as his elegant and manicured hands smoothed down his charcoal gray Pierre Cardin suit. Appearance was everything to the southerner and it showed in everything he wore, right down to matching socks. As he prepared to walk his domain once more, he nodded to Vin as the Texan was passing along the opposite side of the room. Vin gave a small wave back and continued on his way.


Josiah was in top form. Everyone that arrived at the Montecito was made to feel like royalty and a lot of that was down to the amiable ex-preacher. He simply liked people. Another major contributor was coming up fast behind him.


"Josiah, I'm guessing the DuPonts aren't here yet."

The big man grinned, "Not yet, brother, as soon as they arrive, "

Vin cut him of as he approached, "Is it true the DuPonts are due here?"

Buck and Josiah nodded.

Vin winced. "Aw hell."


Mabel and Luther DuPont smiled widely as Josiah opened the door of their cab.

"Welcome back," Sanchez grinned, taking Mabel's hand and brushing his lips lightly across the back of it.

Mabel giggled, "Oh Mister Sanchez, how I've missed you."

"The feeling is mutual, dear lady."

Luther DuPont slapped the head valet on the back. "Good to see you old man," he grinned.

Josiah looked kindly at a man a good twenty years older than himself. "You too, Mister DuPont, sir."

"I told ya, it's Luther. Now, where's that, ah ha!"

Buck approached, sporting a beaming smile.

"Luther," he greeted, his head moving as if he was looking around, deliberately avoiding Mabel, then doing a double take. "Mabel, is that you? Lord, woman, I thought Luther had brought your daughter with him this time."

Mabel giggled again. "Oh, Mister Wilmington, I do so love this place."

"And we love having you here with us again," Buck lied. "I'll show you to your room, where you have a complimentary bottle of champagne and some hors d'oeuvres waiting for you." Buck noted the chuckling in his earpiece, turning slightly.

"Y'know, I can be in the control room in less than a minute, squirt," he whispered.

JD chuckled louder. "Have fun, bro."

Buck had escorted the DuPonts to their room, backing out gracefully to the excited declaration by Luther of 'hitting the Blackjack tables as soon as possible'. Buck winced and wondered if Ezra had started a book on how long the DuPonts could keep their money this trip. Hastily, he made his way back to the lobby, just in time for the arrival of the first drag queens ~

As Vin entered the control bullpen, he tossed a pack of peanuts to JD just before taking his seat.

"Thanks, Vin." The younger man popped a few nuts into his mouth, offering some to Vin, who happily accepted. As they munched together, Vin looked around.

"Where's Chris?"

"With Travis, " JD answered, ", said not to disturb him unless it was urgent."

Tanner nodded his understanding as he glanced around the monitors.

"Aww, hell."

"What?" JD looked to where Vin was staring.

"The DuPonts just hit the Blackjack tables." He spoke into the mic.

"Ezra, "

"Thank you, Vin, but I have already noted their arrival. Do you have the straitjackets on standby?" Ezra asked.

Vin and JD chuckled. "Ready and waiting," Vin joked.

"Oh my God!"

Now Vin was looking to where JD was staring. Several monitors were showing an array of colorfully dressed individuals, with Buck in the center.

"Wow," JD commented, "Some of those really do look like women."

Vin peered at the screen then cuffed the youth across the head.

"They are women." He pointed to a larger group. "Those are the drag queens."

JD blushed. "Ooops."

Tanner cried out. "Aww hell, what now?"

On screen, Buck was seemingly being dragged along by a sea of wig- wearing female impersonators, and didn't appear too happy about it. Vin stood and put his jacket on.

"I'd better go see what's going on."

JD nodded and spoke into the comm. "Buck, wanna give us a clue as to what's happening here?"

"Send, help, "

"Vin's on it; what's going on?"

"They wanna make me a, woman, help, me, "

Before JD could answer, he was greeted with static as the group entered the conference room that had been reserved for them and closed the doors. He instantly switched to another monitor to continue his observations. Looking away for a moment and toward Chris' empty office, JD swallowed hard. Would Chris consider this to be, 'urgent'? After a small debate and with total confidence in Vin, he decided, not.


"Hit me!"

Ezra winced as Luther DuPont insisted on a fourth card. He was fairly sure the man already had a face value of nineteen. The dealer dealt the card, Luther threw down his hand.

"Damnit, busted. " He pointed to the dealer. "Again."

A smashed Mabel had cornered Nathan.

"Y, you, arrrre a lovely, hic, man, " she drawled, tapping his face lightly.

"Why, thank you ma'am. Err, ma'am, what are you drinking?"

Misunderstanding, Mabel beamed. "W, why th, thank you, I'll have a gin and, hic, tonic, pleaassse."

Another groan went up from Luther as Ezra and Nathan exchanged glances. Standish stepped forward.

"I'm sorry, Mister DuPont, we need to close down the Blackjack tables temporarily. As you've had a long journey, why not allow Mister Jackson and Mister Tanner to escort you to your room where we will deliver complimentary sandwiches for your enjoyment?"

"Vin's tied up, Ez, sorry." JD reported in the Pit boss' earpiece.

"Kindly 'untie him', please," the southerner whispered into the comm.

"Sorry, no can do. I'll be there in a minute."

Ezra sighed. "Thank you."

Mabel dipped slightly as she came down off the stool at the corner of the bar.

"Whoopsie, " she giggled as she clung to Nathan.

None too happy at being halted from playing, Luther snapped at her. "You're drunk again you stupid woman."

"Ammmm not!" she huffed.

"I told you to ease off on that champagne, now look, ya got us tossed out early."

"Mister DuPont, " Ezra began. The man put up his hand. "Forget it, I'll be back tomorrow," he stopped and stared at Ezra. "Or is my money not good enough for you."

"I can assure you, there will be no problem should you choose to rejoin us in the morning, but I think for today, "

"Yeah, yeah, save it, fancy man. I was getting tired anyway."

They all turned to JD as he arrived. Mabel leaned forward and pinched the young man's cheek.

"Aaww, aren't you jusssst, hic, adorrrrab le."

JD bit his lip to stop a chuckle as Nathan attempted to stabilize the lady. Ezra leaned toward the young tech.

"Where is Vincent?" he breathed.

"Trying to prevent Buck from becoming a woman," JD whispered back.

As the younger man was about to explain, Ezra's eyes widened, then relaxed. "No, please, I do not want to know."

Josiah appeared, instantly assisting Nathan.

"Excellent timing," Ezra said to JD as the younger man greeted the head valet.

"I called him on the way down here, figured it couldn't hurt."

Standish beamed. "I congratulate you on your perspicacity, Mister Dunne."

JD chuckled. "Thanks, Ez."

As they reached the elevators, Buck burst from the room the drag queens had been assigned to, half undressed and wearing a rather fetching green eye shadow, with Vin in hot pursuit. Mabel giggled as the two men joined her group as they waited for the elevator. She leaned forward to talk to Buck.

"You know, dear, " she slurred, ", you should, hic, sssee ssssomeone about that lip hair."

Buck fake-grinned. "Thank you, ma'am, I'll get right on it."

"Oohh, sssuch a deep voice for a young lady, " she said to no one in particular.

JD could hardly control his laughter. Luther sighed. "Get in the elevator you drunken old bat, can't you see it's Mister Wilmington?"

As the DuPonts, Ezra, Nathan and Josiah entered the car, Mabel could just be heard as the doors closed.

"It is?"

JD had stayed behind and joined Vin and Buck in the second car, desperately trying not to make eye contact with Tanner for fear of cracking up.

Buck cleared his throat. "Not one word, kid."

"Wasn't going to, "


"How, ?"

"Ah, ah, ah!" Buck warned.

'Later' Vin mouthed. JD nodded.

Vin and Buck exited the elevator to head for the staff area, JD continued on to the control room. Life was never dull at the Montecito.


The next morning, Chris stood behind his desk, his arms folded across his chest. He stood there, unmoving, as he waited for the organizer of the drag queen convention to speak. On the couch to his right, Buck, Vin and JD were sitting, waiting for 'Chenice' to offer an explanation.

Chenice's 6'2" frame was adorned in a gold-sequined dress and matching shoes. A white-blonde wig hung in ringlets around a long face, 'her' legs crossed elegantly at the knee. Despite Chenice's best 'Sharon Stone' leg switchover, Chris remained impassive, eventually pulling out his high-backed leather chair and sitting to face the blonde bombshell.

Chenice pouted, talking in a deep effeminate voice.

"Oh, Chris-to-pher, don't be a bear, we were just having a li'l fun."

Chris rested his arms on his desk. "Fun for you, maybe, not so much for my staff."

Chenice looked at Buck. "I'm so-o disappointed in you, Bucklin, where's your sense of adventure?"

Chris directed her back to himself. "Buck is here at my request, as are Vin and JD. Are you seriously telling me you can't see what you did yesterday was a mistake?"

Chenice nodded vigorously. "Oooh, yes, darlin'."She looked at Buck. "Green is so not your color."

JD had chosen that moment to sip at some water, almost spitting it out as he choked back a laugh, earning him a glare from Larabee and a nudge from Vin.

Chris focused back on the drag queen. "Chenice, you tied up three of my security staff yesterday. As much as we enjoy your annual visits, I must insist you not manhandle my staff while you stay with us."

Chenice's eyes sparkled as she eyed the three men, then Larabee.

"Mmm, tying up, now that does sound like fun." She turned back to Chris and noting the stern expression, sighed heavily. "Oh alright, I apologize, we got a little tipsy on the journey in and got carried away." She touched her index finger to her mouth. "We'll be good, I pwomise."

Chris nodded. "Thank you, that's all I ask."

With a flounce and a wink to Vin, Buck and JD, she was out the door. The trio stood and headed that way themselves. Chris sat back in his chair.

"JD, stay."

With a nervous glance to the others, he turned and walked back to occupy the seat Chenice had just vacated. Unseen by the youth, both Vin and Buck cast glances at their chief of security. He simply returned the looks and watched them leave as they stepped down into the bullpen Chris' office overlooked.

Standing, Chris rounded his desk and perched on the corner to face his youngest team member.

"Define, 'urgent'."

JD swallowed, "Err, as in 'calling for immediate attention'?"

"At what point did your brain fry yesterday? Two incidents took Buck and Vin, then Ezra, Nathan and Josiah, followed by you, onto the floor. You didn't consider that urgent?"

"Can't help noticing you left me 'til last there, "

"Damn right! You're the junior member of this team, the least experienced, "

"You said 'urgent', Chris..." JD defended, "It was under control. The DuPonts were drunk but fine, just needed to go back to their room, and Vin was handling Buck's problem, it was all fine."

Chris leaned forward. "When a member of my staff is abducted, whether it's twenty, six-foot-odd drag queens or three grannies on a day trip from Des Moines, I need to know."

JD shifted in his seat and dropped his head to look at his hands. "S, sorry, I figured we had it under control."

"This time, you did. Next time, you call me."

Dunne nodded, his head still down, "Yes sir."

"Now, Travis and I have to travel across town to the Stardust. I can be back here in twenty minutes, understood? "

"Yes, Chris."

Larabee softened his voice. "Ya did good, but it could easily have gone the other way."

"Yes, Chris."

The blond stood. "Go get yourself some coffee."

With a nod, JD stood and left. Making no eye contact with the others, the youth crossed the monitor room. Buck and Vin walked to Larabee's office and hopped up the steps. Chris shook his head.

"Go away, it's not for discussion."

"He did good, stud, it all worked out." Buck stated.

"Chris, ?"

Larabee looked at Tanner then Wilmington. "I didn't tear him a new one, if that's what you're thinking, just a few pointers for next time."

"Next time?" Buck squeaked.

And there it was, that kick-ass Larabee smile.

"Green eye shadow?"

The three men laughed.

"You leavin' now?" Vin asked.

"Yup, Talk to ya later."

Returning to the monitor room, Vin took his seat next to JD and nudged the youth. The small grin was enough for the Texan to know the kid would be fine.

Tussling the ducking youth's hair, Buck went on to the lobby in time to meet and greet an arriving whale. He traveled down, joined in the elevator at one stop by Mabel and Luther DuPont. After greeting them, Buck was aware that Mabel was staring at him.

"Do you have a sister, Mister Wilmington?"

Luther rolled his eyes. "Hush, Mabel."

Buck snickered and got off a stop early to escape any more questions, while recognizing the DuPonts were heading for the tables.


Back in the monitor room Vin stretched. "Reckon I'll go take a walk around."

"Sure thing," JD nodded, and resumed tapping on the keyboard and adjusting different controls.

An hour of watching later, something caught JD's eye. He spoke over the comm.

"Vin, could you take a walk over to the slots? There's a guy in jeans and a denim shirt been hanging around there for some time and I don't recall him playing, once."

"Will do."

Suddenly, the monitor JD was watching went blank. "What the, ?"


Ezra had watched, painfully, as Luther DuPont's pot had slowly dwindled to nothing. As the distraught man dropped his head onto the Blackjack table, sobbing, movement just beyond him caused Ezra to do a double take. Yes, he hadn't imagined it, there was a pickpocket working the room.

"Mister Dunne, I require some assistance, "

"Ezra, I'm, sorry, standby, I'm having trouble with the monitors."

"Could you maybe direct Mister Tanner toward, "

"Ezra! We're crashing up here, Vin's comm. system is just hissing at me. I'll try and raise Buck."

The thief had become aware of Standish's attention and the man was now slowly edging out of the area.

"Aww, shit!"

"I assume, JD, by that expletive, that I should not expect help in the very near future?"

The hiss of static confirmed his fears. "Marvelous." The pickpocket suddenly took off. Ezra sighed, running after him. "Really, if I had wanted to go running, I would not be wearing Armani."

Despite his complaints, Ezra was fast on his feet, and had soon cut the perpetrator off, ending the man's flight with a flying tackle as people around gasped in surprise. Just as he was hauling the struggling man to his feet, a two-man security team was heading his way.

"How kind of you to join us," he quipped, smoothing out his suit as the team took the man off his hands. Satisfied his responsibility, for now, was over, Standish returned to the Blackjack tables, only to find the DuPonts were gone.



Buck's cell rang. "Hey, squirt, "

JD's voice was full of concern as he spoke quickly. "Buck, the system's going down sporadically; grab Josiah and check on Ezra and Vin, " He relayed their positions and in seconds, Buck had located Josiah and, while he looked for Vin, Josiah headed for Ezra.


Vin had a bad feeling as he watched the man in the denim shirt show considerable interest in a slot-player who had just had a big win and appeared to be heading for the elevators. Once he saw the lurker take off after the winner, Vin followed, frustrated that his earpiece was still hissing. A call via his cell to JD, had confirmed he had no 'eyes' on him as he ventured after the pair, relieved when Buck caught up with him.

Just as the elevator doors were closing with the winner and the lurker the only two in the car, Buck and Vin's hands got between the sliding doors, forcing them open. Caught like a rabbit in the headlights, the lurker launched himself at Vin's midriff, taking the Texan out of the elevator backward, to land in a heap on the plush red carpet.

Momentarily winded, Vin lay there, gasping for air as the lurker slowly recovered and attempted to make a run for it.

"Oh, no ya don't," Buck growled, hauling the man back toward him before pushing him face down on the floor.

"You okay, Vin?

Tanner grunted and got to his feet. "Think so."

Buck looked back at the man in the elevator, clearly alarmed as he clutched his winnings to his chest. "You alright there, sir?"

The man nodded. "Y, yes, thank you."

As two more security men arrived, Buck instructed one of them to escort the shaken winner to his room, while the other hauled the lurker away. Vin's cell rang.

"Hey, JD, good call on the lur, what?" Vin looked at Buck, and the big guy knew instantly there was trouble, he wasn't however, expecting Vin's slam of frustration with his fist, to the wall. "We're on it."

"What?" The brunet was almost afraid to ask.

"Luther DuPont's on the roof and is threatening to jump."


JD was getting more and more frustrated. He had called Chris and was now booting up his own laptop.

"What are you doing?" Nathan asked, just having arrived on hearing about the DuPonts.

"Someone's compromising the system and scrambling any attempt I make to trace the signal. I'm gonna by-pass the system and catch the bastard out. You're heading for the roof now, right?"

Nathan nodded as he turned to go. "Just leavin'."

Dunne took a deep breath and started typing frantically on his laptop keyboard. "Right, you asshole, let's see who can out-hack who."


Chris cursed the traffic. A twenty minute drive had become a forty minute nightmare and none of his main team was available to talk to him.

He had a bad feeling about this.


As Vin cautiously opened the door to the roof, Mabel launched herself at him.

"Oh, please, please, help us. Tell the old fool to come down."

Vin shuddered as he looked past her to see Luther balanced precariously on the ledge that ran around the edge of the roof. Passing the clinging woman unceremoniously over to Buck, he attempted to get closer to Mister DuPont.

Buck attempted to soothe her as he watched Vin slowly approach the unbalanced man, and his observation did not refer to where Luther was standing at that precise moment.

"Mister DuPont, "

Luther refused to look at the Texan. "Go away!"

"Please, sir," Vin implored, stripping off his suit jacket and tossing it to the side. "Please step down and talk to me about this."

The would-be jumper looked at him. "You think I'm joking, don't you? Don't think I'll do it."

"No, no, not at all. That's why I'm asking you to come down here and talk to me about it."

Luther returned to looking at the view, sighing heavily. "Too late, son, it's over for me."

Nathan had arrived and was now taking care of Mabel. Buck stepped forward.

"Luther, don't worry about money, we want, no, insist you stay here at the Montecito for the duration of your vacation as our guests, and we'll happily reimburse some of the money you lost as a gesture of goodwill." Luther tilted his head. "That's mighty generous of you, Buck, but you know I'll just come back here next year and do all this again."

Buck and Vin were a little closer now. "Well, how about we ask Ezra to give you some tips on Blackjack? You know what they say, a minute to learn and a lifetime to master."

Luther sighed and cast them a warning glance. "Please, stay back, I need to think."


Josiah and Ezra were now talking to Lieutenant Perez of the LV PD, relaying the recent events. Luis Perez had gotten to know the staff of the Montecito very well over the past year and had a particular fondness and huge respect for Larabee and his main team, who he and his men had affectionately nicknamed 'the Magnificent Seven'. Josiah had called in Greg Sidney to cover for him at the door and Ezra had left his second-in-command, Cheryl Tingle, in charge of the gaming pits, so they could fully focus on the task at hand, while also very aware of the incidents in the control room and on the roof. As soon as he and Josiah were done, Ezra wanted to assist his teammates and friends in any way he could.


JD angrily swiped his hair from his eyes as he barely kept up with whoever was blocking him. This guy was good, but JD was slowly realizing, he was better. Suddenly, he had cleared the scramble signal and his laptop locator was giving him a direction. Reaching into his laptop case, JD pulled out a small handheld device and activated it. With a few more taps to his keyboard, he looked across at Stan Halls, who was staring at the wall of fuzzy monitors.

"I'm running a de-frag on my laptop, when it's complete, the system should re-boot. When I locate the hacker's signal, the flashing square in the corner of my laptop will go green and flash up the room number."

Stan nodded and watched the easterner leave.


Luther was on the verge of tears. "See, all my life, I've been a loser. Had to work hard for everything. The only good things in my life are my wife and my kids, I hated my job, hated where we lived. I hoped, in retirement, we might finally have some fun, can't even get that right."

Vin and Buck stood quietly as they listened to Luther's declarations, the same ones he had made two years running. This time, however, his words seemed tinged with a genuine sadness and, desperation. Vin found himself actually thinking the guy might try to do it this time. All three turned to look to where Vin had tossed his jacket as his cell rang from his inside jacket pocket. Luther wobbled and Mabel half- screamed and half-squeaked with fear.

Nathan carefully retrieved the garment and answered the phone, stepping back so as not to be heard, taking Mabel with him.



Larabee was going crazy and was seriously considering leaving his car and running the rest of the way. Finally, the cell he was ringing picked up.

"Vin, Nathan? What the hell's going on there?" As the traffic seemed to be finally clearing, Chris' expression hardened as Nathan gave him a potted version of events so far.

"Jesus H Christ, I leave there for one morning, NO! No I'm not saying it was anyone's fault, I'm almost there, Nathan, I do NOT want a jumper at the hotel, thanks. "

As he pulled up at the front of the building, Chris leapt out of his car and tossed his keys to the parking attendant.

"Staff car park, I don't have time, "

The attendant nodded his understanding and did as he was asked. Spotting Ezra, Josiah and Luis, Chris approached them.

"Mister Larabee, good to see you." Ezra smiled thinly.

"Don't be concerned, Chris, it's all in hand here." As Josiah spoke, Ezra's cell rang.

"Cheryl, " He looked at the others. "Thank you." Ezra snapped his phone shut, looking to the three men.

"Cheryl, Jess and Amy have each spotted cheaters at their tables. Excuse me."

Larabee looked exasperated. "What the hell is going on?" He addressed Luis and Josiah. "You two go after him, I'm going to the control room."

As he traveled up in the elevator Chris took off his jacket and loosened his tie. "This is a freakin' nightmare." Stepping off, he strode into the security control room.


Stan looked at him. "Vin, Nathan and Buck are on the roof, we have the emergency services on standby. Half of our systems are down. JD's running a program on his laptop which he's convinced will re-boot the system. He also thinks the monitors targeted are specific, not random, as there's been trouble in each area we've gone down in."

"Where's JD now?" Chris demanded.

"He took off, thinks he might have a lead on the hacker's location."

Chris frowned. "He's convinced it's a hacker, from inside this hotel?"

Stan nodded. "Definitely; he spent twenty minutes beating the bastard at his own game."

"Who went with him?" Chris asked, pondering the last statement.

Stan shrugged. "Not sure, I'm guessing he called someone on his way."

And there it was, Chris' internal alarm was going off at that statement. "What's this flashing on his laptop screen?"

"He said when it goes green it'll have the room number."

Larabee moved toward the exit. "I'm going to the roof; when a number comes up in that square, call me."


JD stepped off the elevator and into the corridor to rooms 8000 to 8020. He knew he was on the right floor, just not sure which room he needed. He tapped the master key in his pocket, at least he had an option open to him if this little device of his failed to work. He walked the corridor, watching the flashing light and digital display as he passed each door. Suddenly, his cell rang.

"JD, the green light is up, the number says 8014."

JD grinned and looked back to a room five doors away from him.

"Awesome, thanks, Stan."

The room was opposite another corridor with a few vending machines and an ice dispenser. As JD knocked at the door of 8014, its occupant was just returning with a bucket of ice, cursing as he saw the young man at his door knock, call out, then eventually slide in a key and open the door. The hacker realized his time was up.


Ezra, Josiah and Luis marched three men into Chris' office. Ezra called out from the doorway.

"Where is Mister Larabee?"

"Roof," came the reply.

"And JD?"

"Locating the hacker."

The southerner turned to the three suspects who were now seated, the situation now clear in his mind.

"I suggest you cooperate with us. The person behind this has remained hidden for a purpose; his intention, I imagine, to simply disappear should his plan go awry. Your assistance from now on will considerably ease the burden of responsibility currently on your shoulders."

Josiah leaned in. "I'm going on up to the roof." The southerner nodded his understanding, then turned back to the three men.

"So, gentlemen, do we have an understanding? "


Chris snapped his phone shut. Now he had the room number where JD was headed. He looked to Vin and Buck. Despite their efforts, Luther was still in a very vulnerable position. Mabel was sobbing into Nathan's shoulder and the paramedics were clearly keen to get at the man. He looked to the door as Josiah stepped onto the roof.

"May I try?" the ex-preacher asked.

Larabee nodded, "Can't hurt. I could really do with releasing Vin and Buck right now."

Acknowledging the comment, Josiah moved closer to the man on the ledge. Vin and Buck instantly took a step back.

"Luther, Luther, my friend, talk to me."

The man looked at Josiah, his eyes misting. "I can't go on, Josiah."

"Yes, yes you can, come on, step toward me and we'll talk somewhere more private."

Everyone there could see Josiah's deep baritone voice instantly soothed the distraught man. Vin and Buck remained prepared to race forward if necessary, but were now thinking Sanchez might just succeed.

"I feel your pain, brother, I sense your despair. I was once lost too, had no direction, no family. I have that now, Luther. These people here, they have become like family to me, helped me find my purpose in life, made me happy. You have a family, my friend, and anyone who visits with us is automatically considered part of our extended family, also. Let me, let us help you through this, let us help you travel your road to recovery. Come on, brother, take my hand."

Luther DuPont slowly extended his hand and all on the roof held their breath. Still tucked against Nathan's shoulder and oblivious to Josiah's arrival, Mabel turned toward her husband.

"Luther, PLEASE! "

Startled from his dream-like state, Luther jerked and suddenly stumbled. As he slid off the edge, three men leapt forward and each caught hold of his arms and the back of his jacket.

Chris felt his knees weaken, thinking the man was doomed; relief washing over him as Buck, Vin and Josiah manhandled him back to the rooftop. Luther gasped for breath and clung to Josiah, the big man embracing him to offer the comfort he clearly needed. A few moments later, Luther straightened and looked at Buck and Vin, then Josiah.

"Th, thank you, I, I don't deserve your kindness."

Buck grinned, "Hell, sure ya do, glad we could be here for you. Might be wise to let the paramedics take a look at you, though."

With a nod, Josiah walked the man toward the waiting medics, smiling at the wife who eagerly embraced her husband, the two clinging to each other for a little while. Eventually, Luther allowed the paramedics to place him on a gurney and check him over.

A grinning Chris approached his three team members. "Great work, guys, I thought we'd lost him there for a moment. Josiah, would you stay with him please, let me know what they intend to do for him?"

"Of course."

"You know the system's been crashing, "

"Shit!" Chris interrupted Vin, "Come with me."

"Where we goin'?" Buck asked as they hurried from the roof and toward the elevators.

"JD got a lead on whoever it is that's screwing with our system. Just as I got here, Stan gave me a room number, but I got caught up in all the drama here." As soon as he finished his sentence, Chris broke into a trot, the others following. In their earpieces came the words 'we're back.'


Ezra and Luis stepped from Chris' office. "I really don't think they have a name for this guy," Luis sighed.

Ezra nodded. "Alas, I fear you are correct. You will be staking out the designated meeting place, I assume?"

"Yes, already have men there. Maybe JD will save us the trouble if he can locate this guy."

Suddenly the lights dimmed to the droning noise of systems shutting down. In seconds, the noise reversed itself and the lights brightened, the monitors flickered to life to show multiple angles of the casino as earpieces ceased to hiss.

Stan spoke. "We're back."

Ezra looked at JD's laptop to see the program he had been running was complete. The green square in the corner of the screen was now flashing red.

"Does anyone know why this box has altered its signal?"


JD knocked at the door to room 8014, twice. The third time he knocked, he called out. Satisfied he had done all he could to announce his presence, he took the master key from his pocket and swiped the lock. As the light indicated the change in status, JD turned the knob and pushed open the door. Instantly spotting the laptop, he walked over to the table near the window and studied the screen.

"Gotcha. Nice set-up, gonna have to get up a lot earlier to beat me though, pal." He touched the button at the side of the laptop and in seconds the screen went blank. Looking around, the young tech checked the closets and drawers, all were empty. Still clutching his hand- held device, he located the man's suitcase and carried it toward the door, changing his mind to swing it up onto the bed and unzipping it.

From the door, the hacker eyed the young man. Yep, his time was most definitely up, time to get going. Ice bucket still in his hand, he placed it down gently and picked up the object next to it as he stepped across the room's threshold.

"Can I help you?"

Startled, JD turned toward the voice, but barely had time to register the man before the heavy ice-bucket stand slammed into the side of his face and head. He was unconscious before he hit the floor, the small device in his hand sliding free, to slip under the bed unnoticed.

The man quickly packed up his laptop, ignoring the suitcase; it was only there as a prop anyway. He approached JD.

"What to do with you, pal."

Ignoring JD's bloody face, he linked his arms under the unconscious youth's and dragged him backward, into the bathroom. Several minutes later, as he closed the room's outer door, he removed a long thin metal rod from his jacket pocket and rammed it down into the electronic lock. As he stepped onto the elevator, the power dimmed for a split second and he figured he had gotten out just in time.


Chris, Buck and Vin stepped off the elevator at the floor JD was reportedly at, briefly noting the car next to them was on a downward journey, but not really registering it. Glancing at the room numbers on the doors, they stopped outside room 8014 and Vin produced his master key, frowning as, despite repeated attempts, the door refused to open.

"Lock must be faulty," The Texan speculated, startled, as Buck pounded on the door.

"JD! JD, you in there, boy? JD!"

Buck's anxiety caused Chris to speak into his comm., unable to dispel his own gnawing feelings in the pit of his stomach.

"I need maintenance, room 8014 now, and shut down the exits, I don't want people alarmed, ease people's concerns, but shut them down and , no one, and I mean NO ONE leaves the hotel until I say so."

Buck had tried to raise the young tech over the comm. to no avail and was now ringing his cell, hissing as it rang but didn't pick up.

Vin touched Buck's arm. "What tune does JD's cell play when it rings?" He knew, he just wanted to be sure.

"Theme tune, some canceled western, err, Magnificent Seven, yeah, that's right, kid went nuts when he, "


Chris and Buck watched as Vin placed his ear up against the door. Vin looked at Buck.

"Are you still calling him?"


"Call him!"

Buck pressed redial and watched as Vin once again put his ear to the door.

"There, THERE! " He gestured toward the door and Chris and Buck leaned in, straining to hear, eventually to look at each other in alarm. Again, Buck pounded on the door.

"JD! Damnit, "

Chris went to kick at the door, but Vin stopped him.

"You'll likely break your leg."

"Together?" Chris wondered.

The other two nodded and the three men positioned themselves as Chris pointed to where they should aim. "On three," Chris instructed and counted. As he hit three, the three men put every ounce of effort into kicking at the edge of the heavy-duty door, nearest the lock, relieved to see the frame splinter as the door shuddered open. They stood for a second as they tried to locate where the ringtone was coming from, following the noise to the bathroom. Buck took a breath and slid open the door, seeing nothing at first. He walked over to the bath and pulled back the shower curtain.

"Aww, shit!"

Vin and Chris looked in to see JD, unconscious and bleeding, propped into a sitting position in the bath.

"Oh God, no, " Chris spoke into his mic again. "I need paramedics to room 8014 now! Yes, a maintenance crew and paramedics, NOW! "

After a small debate on whether to move JD, deciding they would, due to him likely having been placed there, the blond reached over the bath and helped Vin and Buck carefully lift the young man out and carry him gently out to the bed. Vin went back into the bathroom and soaked a towel, returning to the bed in seconds. Buck's hands were shaking as he took the towel from Vin and began to gently wipe the blood from the side of JD's face.

"Hey, JD, kid, can you hear me? It's Buck, JD?"

Chris checked for a pulse and Vin for breathing, the two men relieved to discover both. Vin looked at Chris, his eyes blazing with anger.

"We got this, go get the bastard."

Chris hesitated, he hated to leave JD like this, but a look from Vin convinced him and, nodding, he left.

Vin sighed, he desperately wanted to go get the guy, too, but JD was out of it, Buck was distraught and, despite his deep feelings on seeing the kid like this, he knew someone needed to be in control when help arrived.

"Buck, we need to sit him up a little, or he'll choke."

Slowly registering Vin's words, Buck sat on the bed and pulled the youth up against his chest, continuing to dab at the blood, to eventually hold the towel on the wound. 'How could someone do this?' he thought. He struggled to speak, his throat thick with emotion

"He's just a kid, "

Vin looked at Buck, nodding at the words. JD wasn't really, not in age now, he had turned twenty-one, but he was the youngest on the team, a good few years younger, and naïve, God he could be so innocent. The rest of the team had seen so much more of life, whereas all JD had known was school, college and keeping his head above water when his mother died, which had given him an innocence rarely seen in this day and age. And they'd all found it strangely endearing, calling him 'kid', much to JD's dismay, initially. But now, the kid, Vin smiled inwardly, the kid, seemed to like the nickname, realizing it was used with affection, so it stuck.

And now the anger was back. Vin was taking this personally. Just as Buck seemingly watched out for the youth day to day, Vin had taken him under his wing at work. No one could hold a candle to JD where technology was concerned, but there were many things about the job he needed to learn and he, and Chris, were happy to guide him. So attacking JD was, in Vin's book, attacking him too. Now he was itching to go after Chris.

Sensing Vin's mood, Buck looked at him, speaking softly. "Go."

Vin shook his head, "No, I'm good, 'sides, "

", go, Vin, We're good here, Chris needs you."

With a nod to Wilmington and an affectionate touch to JD's face, the Texan left. As the elevator car stopped, Nathan, Josiah and two paramedics with a gurney stepped out.

"Josiah, come with me, Nathan, they're down there." Tanner pointed the way just as the doors closed.


Chris paced the elevator. "Has anyone checked out of room 8014 yet? What? They're doing it by phone, now? I want the number they're calling from, " He waited. Just as he was about to speak, he got his answer. "Okay, I want a shot of every payphone we have, now! I'll pick up the results at the front desk."

As soon as he exited the elevator, Chris strode to the front desk, ignoring the organized chaos around him due to people being unable to come or go. He looked at the monitor. Only half the payphones were in use.

"Okay, now show me the line he's using." Chris' grin was feral. "Gotcha, you bastard." In seconds, he had a printout of the man's image and snatched up the sheet to go in search of the hacker, issuing instructions for all security members to receive a copy. Ezra approached him, his face hard.

"May I assist?" It was not really a question as a need to help, as he had heard what had happened to JD. Chris showed him the picture.

"Which payphone's this?"

Standish studied it for a moment, then smiled. "Follow me."


Buck rubbed his eyes as he watched the paramedics working on his young friend, Nathan at his side the whole time.

"He's gonna need an x-ray, Buck, make sure there are no fractures, swelling or internal bleeding." He watched the Montecito's normally genial hospitality host go even paler, if that were possible, and squeezed his shoulder.

"It's just standard procedure, just like the neck brace is there in case of an unforeseen injury, the drips and nasal cannula for shock and the hollow tongue depressant to keep his airway open and stop him choking on his tongue, it all looks a little scary, but they're there for a purpose. His vitals are good and that's always encouraging. "

Buck sighed heavily and nodded, following the gurney out with Nathan as the maintenance team stepped in.


Vin and Josiah exited the elevator, looking around. Vin spoke into the comm. "Chris, Josiah and me are here, what do you need?"


"It's okay, cowboy," Vin soothed, "all in hand."

"Go to the reception desk and pick up a print, he's here, Vin, I can smell him."

"Will do."

Josiah tapped Vin's shoulder. "I think I should help in the lobby."

Tanner nodded, "Sure, you go ahead. Josiah, the paramedics might come through here, only they, "

Sanchez nodded. "Understood, good luck." Before heading for the main doors, Josiah picked up a print of the man they were looking for, just to ensure he didn't inadvertently sneak past him in the guise of a paramedic. Vin picked up a print and instantly started scanning the crowd.


Ezra and Chris were also scanning the room. Now that all exits to upper floors were sealed too, there was no way this man was going to sneak back to the upper levels and exacerbate the situation. Thomas Docherty, now the face had a name, if indeed that was his real name. Despite the enormity of the task, they scanned and searched every face, he was here, they knew it.

"Got a match."

Chris startled at the call from the monitor room.

"Computer match locates him sitting on a sofa just off the lobby, reading a magazine."

Silently thanking all that was holy for the technology they had, Chris and Ezra, now joined by Luis Perez, made their way back toward the lobby.

"I have visual."

Vin's tone caused Chris to speak urgently. "Vin, wait, wait for us, just watch him until we get there, okay? Tanner, you hear me?"

There was a slight pause and then finally a reply. "Understood. "

In less than thirty seconds, they were at Vin's location, the four men studying their photographs, then looking at the man on the sofa sitting next to a laptop case.

"That's him." Chris practically growled out his words. He saw Luis about to step forward. "Nuh uh, not yet, not until I say so, this is an internal matter."

Understanding Chris' anger, Luis backed off, but the warning look he gave Chris made it clear he would not be allowing the team to hold him for long. The man had committed assault, regardless of what else the team wanted him for, and he wanted him too.

As one, Chris, Ezra and Vin approached the man on the couch, a little satisfaction creeping through at his attempt to cover up his discomfort.

"Thomas Docherty?"

The man shook his head at the rather disgruntled blond who spoke.

"No? Probably just a cover. Would you come along with us, please? We have some questions we'd like to ask you."

Docherty shook his head. "No! I don't know why you approached me, but I have nothing to say to you. I'm about to leave, "

Chris yanked the man up by the front of his jacket.

"Okay, let me put it another way. I don't take kindly to my staff being assaulted, "

Ezra stepped in. "What Mister Larabee means is, we must insist."

As Docherty watched Vin step forward, his knees turned to jello. "I want my lawyer."

Chris laughed and tossed him at Vin. "Yeah, right. We'll get right on that."

As Ezra picked up the laptop, Vin pushed the hacker's arm up his back, pleased at the yelp it produced as he pushed him toward the elevators, neither man really noticing, or caring, that they had everyone's full attention. As they marched him through the staring crowd, the elevator doors opened and two paramedics with JD on a gurney, followed by Buck and Nathan, stepped out, the crowd mumbling as they parted for them to get through. Ezra was visibly shocked as he had only heard of, and not seen, JD's injury. Chris and Vin choked back their anger and tightened their hold on the man in their custody, vaguely aware of Chenice's voice as she cried out.

"Oh, it's that sweet little boy from the security office," and answered with collective 'Awwws' from the other drag queens around him.

Chris leaned in to Docherty's ear. "The only reason I'm not juggling your balls in my hand right now, is because you left him sitting up so he wouldn't choke." The furious security chief was trying hard to banish the haunting images of if they had found JD unconscious and on his back.


All in the monitor room watched as the five men walked past. Chris slammed the door shut as Vin pushed Docherty into a chair. The hacker swallowed. He had figured he'd be dealing with suits, but these suits scared the shit out of him. Luis crossed to the far side of the room, for now.

"So, ya gonna walk us through it, or do I set these two on you?" Chris sneered, nodding to Ezra and Vin. "And I should remind you, you might have screwed with our technology, but our little resident genius? You know, the kid you felt obliged to knock the shit outta, has us on a back-up feed. It may be on a DVD, but it is on there, and it won't take us long to follow your trail."

Docherty swallowed. "Alright, so you caught me, big deal. You have no proof I stole anything, I have no evidence of stolen goods on me, so what have you got? A guy that hacked into your system."

"I believe that's referred to as Industrial Espionage," Ezra commented.

"Don't work for no one, so prove it."

"Then there's the matter of the assault on Mister Dunne."

Docherty laughed. "You can't pin that on me, how are you gonna prove that?"

Chris leaned in, "I'm sure JD will help us there, when he wakes up."

The hacker laughed again. "He had no time to see me, it, "

As he realized what he had done, Vin fisted his shirt.

"You shit-faced, mother, "


At the sound of Larabee's voice, Vin released the shaking man. Perez joined them.

"I've heard enough."

Chris stepped back with a nod and two police officers joined them from the monitor room. He sighed heavily as Docherty and his laptop were taken away.

"The next team is due, what say we call it a day and go see how JD's doing?"

"Sounds like a plan," Vin nodded.


Nathan had left JD's hospital room and gone for coffee. Buck leaned over the youth and picked at the dried blood in the youth's hair.

"What do I have to say?" he whispered. "Do you want me to tell you I love you like a brother? Okay, I do. Now will you wake up?" He turned on hearing a noise behind him.

"I'll be right back." He squeezed the youth's hand then joined his teammates in the corridor.

"No swelling, or internal bleeding. They glued his head wound and he's got some contusions and a concussion. Also, " Nathan sighed as he relayed JD's condition to his friends, "He's got a hairline fracture of the cheekbone."

Larabee hissed.

"It's not as bad as it sounds. It'll be sore, and a little stiff, but it should heal in a few weeks. There's nothing they can do for it, he'll just have to be careful."

Hearing enough, Buck went back inside JD's room, followed by the others.

"Hey, squirt, there y'are."

"Hey, Buck." JD tried to focus with his one good eye. "Did I have an accident?"

Buck smiled as he leaned in. "Sort of. We'll talk about it when you feel a little better, okay?"


Before anyone else could speak to JD, he was asleep. Relief in the room was evident. They had been lucky this time.


Three days later, Chris, Vin and Ezra were helping to getting JD discharged. Buck and JD were oblivious as they ranted on at each other.

"Buck, I'm fine. I don't need a nursemaid."

"I'm just saying, you should stay with me for a couple of days, maybe a week, just until you get back on your feet."

"I'll be fine."

"Okay, I'll stay with you."

JD frowned, then winced, "My spare room's got my computer in there."

"Okay, it's with me, then."

JD looked at Chris in exasperation.

"For the love of God, JD, just say yes."

Dunne sighed. "Alright, a few days."

Buck grinned. "A week."

"Damnit, Buck! Alright, a week, and that's it."

The brunet chuckled at his victory and took JD's bag to Chris' car. JD released what was passing these days for a smile, a little stiff, but it was there. It was kinda nice that someone gave a damn. Chris approached him.

"Docherty failed to make bail, they reckon he's a flight risk. He's appealing, and he'll likely succeed."

JD nodded. "Yeah, I figured as much. Sorry about, well, you know."

"Wasn't your fault, and you got us back online, " the blond grinned, ", and you called me."

"Hell, yeah, after last time?"

Chris tilted his head. "Remind me when you get back to work, need to have a conversation about hacking."

JD hoped his best poker face was still in place as he looked at the blond.

Chris then produced an object from his pocket. "This is yours, I believe?"

JD took the hand-held device. "Yeah, it is. Thanks."

"Would this be your 'secret project'?"

Dunne grinned, "One of 'em. It sent a signal to my laptop which located the actual room the signal was coming from as I passed by it. It's got a dead-man's button; if I let it go, it flashes red on my laptop screen. I forgot to tell anyone." He blushed.

"Well, " Chris squeezed his shoulder, ", you did have a lot going on. But don't ever go alone like that again, okay?"

JD was about to protest, knowing others had done the same, but he felt it safer to just nod instead. "Yes sir."

"Chris, do we know what he was up to?"

"You were right, the shut-downs weren't random. He had a team on the floor positioned and ready to operate. Unfortunately for us, Mister DuPont stretched our resources while all this was taking place. Thank God, Ezra and his team are on the ball."

"Did he get away with anything?" JD wondered.

Chris grinned. "Not a freakin' thing."

Ezra walked in and gave the youth a one-armed hug to his shoulders. "In your honor, tonight, and tonight only, our visiting drag queens are performing at Mystique, just for you and your invited guests."

JD grinned, "For real? Wow, awesome."

"They asked if you had any special requests?"

JD's eyes twinkled. "Actually, I do."


JD had invited all the Montecito staff that wasn't working that evening, Luis Perez, Orin and Evie Travis, Nettie and Casey, plus Mister and Mrs. DuPont, the now rested Luther, due to have his first Blackjack lesson from Ezra the next day and his first session with a therapist, arranged by Nathan, on his return home. Rain had just finished her first set and Inez brought the group another round of drinks, with a special virgin cocktail for JD, due to his meds. She embraced the youth from behind and kissed his good cheek.

"Good to see you well, chiquito."

JD squeezed her arm. "Thank you, and thanks for doing all this, tonight. I really appreciate it."

Inez smiled. "You have to live with Buck for a week, it was the least I could do."

They all laughed. Acting furtively, Buck sidled up to the team and whispered to JD.

"Not too late to change your mind, kid, I mean, I think this is , "

"Buck, you said you loved me like a brother, didn' t you mean it?"

Buck cursed, how had he heard that? And now the look, damn him, not the look.

"Alright, alright."

JD chuckled as the team looked on, curious.


The youth looked at Chris, "Just have those cameras I gave you ready. Vin, you got the DVD recorder?"

"In my hand and ready to go, kid."


The lights changed and the music played and the drag queens belted out their first two songs, finishing to rapturous applause.

As Chenice welcomed their newest member to the stage, JD whispered, 'cameras'.

Jaws dropped open as a 6'4" mustached brunette swaggered on stage in a blue sequined dress and matching shoes and boa.

JD cackled as he tried not to hurt his face. Vin nudged him.

"How the hell did you, I mean, Holy shit!"

Chris just stared, Josiah and Nathan looked at each other then back to the stage. Ezra sighed.

"I should have taken bets."

Finally, looking back at the others, Chris pointed at Buck and spoke. "I think the blue eye shadow works better."

Vin and JD howled out a laugh at the remark, and again as Buck sauntered sexily over and ran his boa over the team's heads, blowing them a kiss as the music to 'Hey Big Spender' began to play.

As Buck and Chenice sang the song together, JD sat back to the sound of cameras clicking, in the company of people he cared about deeply, while he watched his 'big brother' singing, dressed as a woman.

Life didn't get much better than this.



The Las Vegas Chronicles