Ransom, Rum, and Rudolph

by Lisa S.

MAIN CHARACTERS: Seven, Rain, Inez, Orin & Evie Travis

AUTHOR'S NOTES: A HUGE thank you to Rhonda, Anne, and Lisa C. for being my sounding board and reading over my various drafts and to Antoinette/RiverOtter for betaing the story. A special thanks to Sarah for creating this wonderful AU for us to play in. Lyrics from Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer by Johnny Marks (c) 1949.

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.


You know Dasher and Dancer
And Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid
And Donner and Blitzen.
But do you recall

The most famous reindeer of all?

The faint sounds of the Christmas classic could be heard through the Montecito's security office as employees paused in their duties to look in the direction of where the tune was coming . . . the Security Chief's office. His door was closed but they could still faintly hear the song.

"Chris never struck me as the type of guy who liked Rudolf," commented Vin out loud.

"What's wrong with Rudolf?" replied JD as he looked in the direction of the closed door. "It's a classic . . . everyone loves Rudolf. . ."

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Play in any reindeer games

It was at this moment Ezra Standish, Nathan Jackson, and Josiah Sanchez entered security's space, showing up a few minutes early for the weekly meeting.

"Who's playing the Christmas music?" asked Nathan as he looked at JD.

"It's not me," replied the computer specialist quickly.

"I believe the festive carols are emanating from Mr. Larabee's office," suggested Ezra.

"Chris?" repeated a surprised Josiah.

"See . . . I'm not the only one surprised at Chris' choice," chimed Vin as the song continued to play. . .

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
Rudolph with your nose so bright
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?
Then all the reindeer loved him
And they shouted out with glee
"Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
You'll go down in history!

"What's everyone standing around for?" asked Buck as he walked in, joining the group that had gathered around Vin and JD's desks.

"We are just contemplating Mr. Larabee's selection of Christmas melodies," stated the Pit Boss.

Buck reached over and grabbed some holiday colored M&Ms from the candy dish on Vin's desk.

"It's Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer," stated Buck as the others nodded. "That used to be Adam's favorite Christmas carol."

The Hospitality Host's last statement caused the other five men to grow silent. Before anyone could respond the song ended and Chris' door opened. The Security Chief emerged and saw the group of men gathered in the bull pen area.

"Time to meet," said Chris before heading to the conference room located near his office. The other six men followed, Buck pressing the button to JD's singing hamster setting it off as it began to sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas while moving its tiny arms.

"You just had to press the button," muttered Vin who made a quick retreat towards the conference room to avoid hearing the high pitch singing. The other men chuckled as they followed the Texan with JD and Buck in the rear.

"How many of those things do you have?" asked Buck who remembered JD had one dressed as a kung fu fighter. He didn't realize they made so many different types.

"Got a couple of 'em now," explained JD as the two men walked into the conference room, closing the door behind them. "Although some folks around here don't really like 'em."

"You don't say," replied Buck as he tried to hold back a grin. The two men took their seats as Chris began the weekly meeting.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

"And our last item," stated Chris as he wrapped up the staff meeting. "Reminder the Montecito is collecting toys for the Marines' Toys for Tots campaign this year. Inez and Rain are taking the lead and are the ones to see if there are any questions."

"The valet staff will make sure the collection boxes are emptied everyday and the toys deposited in the storage room," interjected Josiah as the others nodded.

"Inez said to remind everyone they are only collecting new, unwrapped toys," stated Buck. He had volunteered his services to be Inez's unofficial assistant in the toy campaign because it was a good cause plus he hoped to get closer to the Latino beauty.

"You know the first Toys for Tots campaign was in 1947 in Los Angeles, California," stated Josiah who was filled with useful and sometimes not so useful trivia.

"You don't say," said a smiling Vin who was used to the Head Valet's vast knowledge in the obscure.

"They collected 5000 toys that year . . . and the first toy donated was a Raggedy Ann doll," continued Josiah.

"On that note, everyone back to work . . ." said Chris as he stood.

Purposely hanging back to let the others leave first, Buck walked out of the conference room with Chris, taking a moment to see how he was doing considering earlier he was listening to Adam's favorite Christmas carol.

"Everything ok?" asked Buck.

"Everything's fine," replied Chris. "Why'd you ask?"

"Well with the holidays coming and all. . ." started Buck who didn't want to come out and say it.

"I'm fine Buck," reassured Chris as he lightly slapped his old friend on the back. As the two men walked out into the common area, they were greeted with JD's accusation.

"Did you take him?" asked the computer specialist.

"Take who?" asked Buck.

"My hamster," explained JD. "He's gone . . ."

"How could we have taken him if we were in the same meeting with you?" asked Buck.

The young computer specialist seemed to ponder the Hospitality Host's question for a moment, finally deciding it must have been someone else who took his singing hamster.

"Gentlemen, we have a situation," said Josiah. "Just heard from Greg . . . he was parking a guest's vehicle and came across an unattended red duffel bag in the parking garage . . . he's quarantined the area until you all get there."

"JD, see if you can pull up an image of the bag on the security cameras," said Chris.

"Sure thing," said the young man as his fingers flew over the keyboard, totally forgetting the discussion earlier about his missing hamster. A couple seconds later, the image of the bag in question appeared on the screen.

"Looks like just one bag," said Vin as JD zoomed in on the image.

"Vin . . . JD . . . go check it out . . ." instructed Chris.

"Hang on one moment," said JD as he continued to type commands on the keyboard. "I just got some new software that might be able to help us out."

"Ok . . . Vin . . . Josiah . . . head down to the parking garage," said Chris.

The two men nodded and Vin said to his friend, "JD, you're our eyes. . . let us know what we're dealing with . . ."

"Will do, Vin," said JD as he briefly glanced up and smile at the Texan.

Once the two men had left, Chris asked, "Ok, about this computer software, how can it help us?"

"Well, it uses infrared/visible wavelength optics to scan items so it should be able to tell us if there is any heat source in the bag . . . as well as any metals . . ." replied JD. "Items that are typical bomb making materials."

Chris nodded as he and the other men studied the picture of the bag on the screen and watched as the image changed to infrared showing the faint outline of the contents inside the bag.

"Looks like there's no electronic devices or wires," stated JD.

"Looks like several stacks of something . . ." commented Buck as he squinted to get a better look.

"Paper currency," suggested Ezra.

"A bag full of money?" stated Nathan.

Ezra nodded as he said, "The dimensions suggest that is indeed the case."

Chris relayed their findings to Vin and Josiah and instructed them to still use caution. The five men in the security office watched their coworkers on the monitor as they entered the camera frame and carefully approached the bag. Vin squatted down beside the bag and slowly unzipped it.

"Tell Ezra he's right . . . it's a bag full of cash," stated Vin into his communication device.

"Ok, bring it back here," stated Chris. Then turning his attention to the youngest member on his team, he said, "JD, go through the security feeds and see if you can find who left the bag there. . . I imagine they are gonna miss it soon and will be back and I want a picture of 'em. . ."

"Will do," said JD as he turned to his task on hand.

Chris smiled, he found himself continually amazed at the gadgets and gizmos JD came up with.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

"Well, here it is," said Vin as he handed the bag they found in the parking garage to Chris.

"You'd think someone who misplaced that much money would miss it," commented Josiah.

Chris unzipped the bag and took out a stack of bills.

"There's thousands in there," remarked JD in awe as he took a peek into the bag.

"May I?" asked Ezra as he held out his hand. Chris handed him the stack of bills. Holding the stack up to his ear, he fanned the bills with his thumb. He then declared, "It's 25,000 and from the looks of it there are 20 stacks of bills with the same amount so we're talking roughly half a million in the bag."

"Damn!" remarked Buck.

"How'd you do that?" asked JD in admiration of the Pit Boss' talent.

"Years of experience," replied Ezra as he smiled while handing the stack of money back to Chris.

"Half a million dollars," repeated Josiah. "That's an awful lot of money to be left around. . ."

"I wonder if it's from a robbery or a drug sale," commented Vin.

"Check with Lieutenant Perez and see if there have been any recent incidents involving a large amount of money," stated Chris.

Vin nodded.

"I'll see what I can find on the security tapes," stated JD.

"In the meantime, I'll put this in the safe in my office," said Chris as he zipped up the bag.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

"Here's some coffee," said Vin as he delivered the cup of caffeine to the computer specialist who was busy scouring through the security tapes for who left the money. "Find anything yet?"

"No, but I'm getting close," said JD before taking a sip of his java. "I found out from Greg when the valet staff last was in the parking garage and the bag was not there and then the time when he found it and I'm doing a search during that period . . . I'm hoping it won't take too long. . ."

True to his word it was about five minutes later and JD announced, "I think I have something. . ."

Vin came over and leaned against his desk as he watched JD's screen.

"The camera angle is not the best but watch. . ." instructed JD as he pressed play.

On the screen a tall man with a white beard walked out to a red Lexus and opened the trunk. He removed the red duffel bag in question and set it off to the side on the ground and then spent a few moments shifting the other contents in his trunk around. When he was done, he closed the trunk and headed around to the driver's door, getting into the vehicle and a few seconds later driving away, leaving the red bag on the cement ground.

"Definitely looks like our guy," stated Vin. "Can you get a fix on the car's license plate?"

"Already on it," said a smiling JD as he pulled up a screen capture of the vehicle before it drove away and zoomed in on the plate. "Got it!"

"Nevada XLJ4398" read Vin as he also wrote it down on the note pad. "I'll give Lt Perez a call and see if he can find out who owns that vehicle."

JD nodded.

"Good job, JD," said Vin.

"Thanks," said the computer specialist as he saved the footage in case they needed it later. After Vin left his desk, JD started his second search . . . the one to find out who took his Christmas hamster. Since they also had cameras in the security office, it should be pretty easy to find out, he thought, as he brought up the footage during the time they were in the staff meeting.

Frowning as he noticed an anomaly with the file size. It was smaller than it should be, he thought. Bringing the document up, he pressed play and watched.

"Bat's breath," muttered JD as he realized someone had deleted a portion of the security feed. The portion that obviously showed who took his hamster. Closing the software application he thought about this latest bit of information. The only people who had the capability to delete security files were the individuals who worked in security. Glancing around at his coworkers, he studied them closely while trying to figure out who it might have been.

Getting up from his chair, JD walked into the break room and grabbed a donut. Taking a bite of the calorie-loaded confection, he walked back to his desk at the same time as Chris Larabee's secretary, Sally Frost, walked in.

"Oh . . . JD . . . just the person I'm looking for," said the secretary.

"What's up, Sally?" replied JD after swallowing his last bite of donut.

"A hand delivery . . ." replied the very organized assistant. "This letter came for you in the interoffice mail. . ." She handed him an envelope that had his name typed on the front.

JD frowned. He couldn't remember the last time he got something in the mail at work.

"Thanks," he said before taking another bite of his donut and walking back to his desk. Sitting down, he placed his uneaten portion of his donut on his desk. Grabbing his letter opener he slid it across the top of the envelope. Pulling out the white piece of paper, he slowly opened it.

"What the . . ." he muttered as he read the document.

"We have your singing, dancing rat.

We will contact you later to see if you want him back."

Whoever wrote the letter obviously had too much time on their hands, thought JD, because each letter was a different font, size, and color so it had the look like someone had cut out letters from a newspaper.

"What'd you get in the mail?" asked Vin as he glanced over at JD.

"Oh . . . nothing . . . just something from HR. . ." replied the young computer specialist quickly as he folded up the letter and stuffed it back into the envelope it came in. He then folded it and placed it in his back pant's pocket. As much as he would like to tell Vin about the letter, he could be part of the kidnapping scheme, thought JD. So right now he would just have to keep it to himself and secretly figure out who kidnapped his hamster.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

"I can't believe how many toys we've collected so far," commented Rain as they checked out the large amount of donated toys in the storage room.

"I think we're going to need some more boxes to pack them in," said Inez, pleased to see their Toys for Tots campaign was going to be a huge success.

"And maybe some volunteers to help pack them up," suggested Rain.

"Knock knock," said the distinctive male voice causing both women to look back to see who it was. Rain smiled when she instantly realized it was the on-call physician, Nathan Jackson.

"Hi Nathan," said Inez when Rain suddenly became very quiet. "Speak of the devil. . ."

"What's wrong? You need a doctor?" asked Nathan, suddenly worried that one of the ladies had taken ill.

"Nope, we need volunteers to help pack up these toys," said Inez. "Don't we Rain?" The last question was meant to draw the obviously shy woman into the conversation.

"Yes, we do," said Rain.

"Well, I'd be happy to help," said Nate.

"Excellent," said an enthusiastic Inez. "Why don't you two start packing these toys up and I'll go get some more boxes?" The Latino woman didn't wait for a response from either as she walked out of the storage room, leaving the two alone.

"So, how have you been, Rain?" asked Nate as they began sorting the toys.

"Pretty good. How about you?" asked the young woman.

"Not bad . . . I can't complain," said the smiling doctor. "I've been meaning to come see your show again. . ."

"Oh . . . you should . . . I've added some new songs," replied the singer as she deposited some Barbie dolls in a box. "I'd love to see you in the audience. . ."

Deciding he would take the plunge, Nate asked, "Well, if you're interested, maybe we can have dinner before and then I can stay and watch . . . your show. . ."

"I'd like that," said Rain softly as she glanced up and smiled at the handsome doctor.

Their quiet moment was unfortunately interrupted when they heard the squeaking sound coming down the hallway. It didn't take long to find out what it was when Josiah appeared in the doorway with a cart filled with toys.

"Ho HO HO . . . I've got another toy delivery!" stated the Head Valet.

"Wow! Look at all those toys!" said an excited Rain. "Thank you Josiah!"

"My pleasure, Miss Rain," replied Josiah. "Glad I can help out. . ." Taking a minute to inspect the massive toy collection in the storage room, Josiah commented, "Looks like we'll have a lot of toys for the Marines to give out."

"Yes we will," replied Rain. "Everyone has been so generous this year."

"And it looks like you twisted Nathan's arm to help with the packing," commented Josiah.

"Well, she didn't have to twist too hard," replied a smiling Nathan.

"The Calvary has arrived," announced Buck as he and Inez arrived carrying boxes.

It didn't surprise Rain that Inez returned with the Hospitality Host. It was very obvious there was something going on between the two even though the Mystique manager refused to admit it.

"Looks like we got here in the nick of time," said Inez as she saw the full cart that Josiah just delivered.

Sensing he was a fifth wheel, Josiah said, "Well, I think I'll leave you two couples to pack."

"Thanks again, Josiah, for dropping off the toys," replied Rain before the Head Valet left.

On his way back to his valet post outside, Josiah walked by the Twenty One café and saw the Security Chief sitting by himself drinking coffee. Remembering the earlier episode when Chris was listening to Adam's favorite Christmas carol, Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, the Head Valet decided to stop and see how his friend was doing.

"Mind if I join you?" asked Josiah as he took a seat in the booth across from Chris.

The Security Chief nodded as he replied, "Not at all."

Alice walked up and asked, "Can I get you something Josiah?"

"Just coffee."

"Will do. Be back in a minute," replied the waitress as she smiled. True to her word, she quickly returned with a cup of coffee for the Head Valet.

"Thanks Alice."

Josiah added milk and sugar to his coffee and as he stirred it, he said, "Anything new on who left that bag of money?"

"JD found the guy on the security tapes and Vin is checking with LVPD on the car's license plate," replied Chris after taking a drink of his coffee.

Josiah nodded. "You know if you ever need to talk, I'm here. . ."

"Thanks . . . but I'm fine. . ." said Chris in a low voice.

"And with the morn those angel faces smile which I have loved long since and lost awhile," said Josiah.

Chris looked up from his coffee and Josiah continued, " John Henry Newman said it . . . I thought you'd appreciate it. . ."

Chris glanced down, his gaze fixated on his half full cup of coffee while silently wishing it was something a little stronger like whiskey. Finally he said, "I still miss 'em . . . a day doesn't go by I don't think of 'em . . ."

"I know," said Josiah. "But what you need to know is you're no longer alone . . . you have six friends who want to help. . ."

Chris looked up, staring intently at Josiah for a moment and then nodded.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

"Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg," sung JD softly as he walked back into the security office, returning from his break.

"Hey, JD," said Vin as he looked up briefly as the young man enter.

"Hey Vin, anything going on?" asked the computer specialist as he placed his bottle of Pepsi on the desk and took a seat.

"Just the usual," replied the Texan before popping a Cheeto into his mouth.

JD nodded as he deactivated his screen saver and logged into his computer. Glancing at his phone, he noticed the voice mail light blinking. Picking up the handset, he entered his pass code to check his messages.

"You have one new message. Press one to listen to the new message."

JD pressed one and waited.

"Your first new message . . ." said the automated system.

"HELP ME!!" Followed by a few seconds of silence then the familiar song "We wish you a Merry Christmas, We wish you a Merry Christmas, We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." Then the message abruptly ended.

What the heck, thought JD as he pressed seven to listen to the message again. The song he definitely knew. It was the song his kidnapped hamster played. Now if he could just recognize the voice at the very beginning that said "HELP ME". Unfortunately after listening to it five times he still had no clue as to who it was on the other end of the phone.

Saving the message for later, he sent the file electronically to himself so he could later inspect the recording closer. Maybe there was some clue in the recording as to who was the kidnapper.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Barney Hicks, a real estate agent from Topeka, Kansas, was in town for the North America Real Estate convention. Unfortunately he was not only unlucky in real estate but also at the craps table. Deciding a break was much needed, he headed to the men's room to relieve his bladder from the two hours of rum and coke. As he entered the room he paused at the sight before him. Santa Claus was at the urinal. Well, probably not the real Santa but someone dressed just like him.

Shrugging, Barney just figured the sight was pretty ordinary for Vegas and sometimes even Santa needs to pee. He headed to one of the empty urinals and while he was taking care of business, he noticed out of the corner of his eye "Santa" had finished, zipped up, and headed straight to the door.

Frowning, Barney asked, "Aren't ya gonna wash your hands first?"

An obviously intoxicated Santa turned around, swaying slightly. "What?"

"Wash your hands," repeated Barney. "Aren't you gonna wash 'em? Cause you know sanitary reasons . . ."

"Are you trying to tell Santa what to do?" slurred the man as he slowly approached.

Meanwhile, Chris Larabee was leaving the Twenty-One café to return back to the office after his short coffee break. As he walked through the casino, he heard shrieks as two men came tumbling out of the bathroom in mid-fight.

"Back up needed in the casino, west side by the men's room," he said through his communication device before moving forward.

"Alright . . . alright . . . break it up," he said as he pulled the two men apart. "Santa" took another swing at Barney and Chris pulled him away and slammed him against the wall. "I said break it up . . . NOW. . ."

Ezra had heard back up was needed through the security channel and arrived at that moment to take Barney and move him away from the volatile Santa.

"So is someone gonna tell me what the heck is going on?" asked Chris as he glared at the two men. Meanwhile Vin and JD showed up and dispersed the crowd that had gathered

"I was just takin' care of business and this . . . yahoo," started the agitated Santa as he gestured with his head to Barney. "Tried to tell me what to do."

"I just asked if he was gonna wash his hands before leaving," explained Barney. "Do you know how many germs there are when you don't wash your hands? It's disgusting. . ."

Ezra nodded as he replied, "I understand. I, too, am repulsed when others do not take the time for simple sanitary procedures before departing a lavatory."

Barney nodded at the Pit Boss, glad to see at least one person agreed with him and then continued, "Anyway, this bozo goes berserk."

"Elf this, buddy!" said Santa as he held up his middle finger in salute.

"See, is that anyway for Santa to act?" asked Barney. "Thank God there are no children nearby . . . they would be traumatized."

"Ok, you two," said Chris as he grabbed Santa by the arm. "You're coming with us so we can figure all this out." Shaking Santa that he held tightly in his gripped, "And anymore outbursts from you and I'm calling the police, got it. . . Santa or no Santa, you're still disturbing the peace and assaulting people. . ." He then leaned close to the man's ear and said, "And by my book, that's naughty. . . definitely not nice. . ."

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

The next day JD arrived at work and found another envelope on his desk addressed to him. Carefully picking it up, he inspected it first before opening. Much to his surprise, what he found inside was a picture . . . a picture of his kidnapped hamster sitting in front of yesterday's edition of the Las Vegas Tribune and holding a sign in his tiny hands that said "HELP ME!" Underneath the picture in typed lettering was "Want him back?"

Ok, this is not funny, thought JD at the same time Chris came out of his office and said, "Hey JD . . . the owner of all that money is down in the lobby . . . can you escort him up to my office?"

Quickly tucking the picture into his shirt pocket, JD jumped from his chair and said, "Sure thing, Chris."

"His name is Kris Jingle," said the Security Chief.

"Jingle? As in bells?" replied JD.


"Ok, will be back in a few minutes," said the computer specialist.

When JD arrived in the lobby area, he walked over to the front desk.

"Hi JD, what can I do for you?" said Front Desk Manager Sandy Merle.

"I'm here to escort Mr. Jingle to security," replied JD.

"Oh, he's the tall gentleman with white beard standing by the poinsettias," said Sandy as she discreetly pointed.

JD's gaze followed her direction as he saw the gentleman in question. "Thanks Sandy," said the young man before heading over.

"Mr. Jingle?" asked JD as he approached the man in question.

"Yes," said Kris as he turned towards the voice.

"My name's JD Dunne and I'm from Montecito's Security," said the computer specialist. "I'm here to escort you to our office. If you would follow me please. . ."

"Thank you," said Kris as the two men began to walk they made small talk about the weather and upcoming holidays. As they entered the security office, Chris was waiting for them in the bull pen area.

"Mr. Jingle, my name's Chris Larabee, and I'm head of security here at the Montecito," introduced Chris as he shook his hand, immediately recognizing the man from the security footage JD had found.

"Nice to meet you, Sir," said the visitor. "And you don't know how relieved I was to hear from Lt Perez that you all found my bag that I left in your garage. . ."

"Well, we have a matter of a few administrative details first," said Chris. "Can I see your driver's license and also can you tell me how much money was in the bag?"

Kris Jingle pulled his wallet from his back pocket and flipped it open, showing the Security Chief his driver's license. At the same time he replied, "There was half a million in the bag."

"Alright, we're good," said Chris. "JD . . . get the bag from my office please."

The young man nodded as he took the steps going up to Chris' office two at a time. He returned a few seconds later with the red bag in question.

"Here you go," said JD as he handed the bag to Kris Jingle.

The older man unzipped the bag and took a peak inside to confirm the money was inside. "Thanks again for finding this bag and getting it back to me. I really appreciate it . . ."

If you don't mind me asking," started Chris. "That's an awful lot of money to be carrying around . . . what are you planning to do with it?" He expected the man to say he was going to spend it all gambling since they were in Vegas.

"Well, I was going to give it all away," said Kris Jingle. "With the economy the way it is, there's lot of folks struggling to make ends meet . . . I thought it would be nice to be Santa and brighten the lives of some folks. . ."

The man's response left both Chris and JD speechless.

"I'd like to give you all a reward for finding the bag," continued Mr. Jingle as he pulled out several bills from the bag.

"No reward is needed . . . we're just doing our jobs," replied Chris quickly as he held up a hand to stop the man.

"Well, if it wasn't for you and your staff, I wouldn't be able to go through with my plan," stated the older man.

"I have a suggestion," chimed JD as both men looked at him.

"What's that?" asked Mr. Jingle.

"Well, how about if you give the reward money to our Toys for Tots campaign?" suggested the computer specialist. "That way it goes towards a good cause. . ."

"I like it," said Kris Jingle a big smile appeared on his face.

"Me too," replied Chris. "JD, why don't you escort Mr. Jingle downstairs to Mystique for him to give the reward money directly to Inez and Rain."

"Will do, boss," said JD.

"Thanks again, Mr. Larabee," said Mr. Jingle as he shook Chris' hand. "You just made Christmas a whole lot brighter for some very unfortunate people. If you weren't there before, this would definitely get you onto Santa's NICE list." As he followed JD out of security he paused a moment at the door and turned to wave. Just before ducking out the door he called out in a deep resonate voice. "HO! HO! HO! MERRY CHRISTMAS!"

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

It was a couple days later and the Montecito was hosting a huge holiday party to celebrate all the toys they had collected for the Marines' Toys for Tots campaign. Not only did some employees and hotel guests attend but several Marines in uniform also were there to formally accept the toys for the campaign.

"Ladies, I hope it's not too late to donate to your cause," said Evie as her husband, Orin Travis, arrived with arms filled with toys.

"Not at all," said a smiling Inez as she and Rain took the toys from the couple.

"Thank you for your donation and for coming to the party," said Rain.

"Oh, we wouldn't miss it, would we Orin?" said Evie as she squeezed her husband's hand.

"Not at all, my Dear," said Orin as he smiled back at his wife.

Spotting the arrival of Montecito's security, Inez said, "Excuse me for one moment." Walking over, she greeted the men and then gave JD a hug.

"Thank you so much," she said as she embraced JD.

"For what?" asked JD who was surprised by the woman's actions.

"For suggesting to Mr. Jingle that he give the reward money to our Toys for Tots campaign," said Inez. "He said he might even try to stop by tonight. . ."

"Well, I just figured . . ." started JD who was suddenly speechless.

"Just say 'you're welcome'," suggested Vin in a whisper in JD's ear.

"You're welcome, Inez," said JD as he smiled.

Inez pinched his cheeks. "Ahh . . . that smile . . . it gets me every time . . ."

"Nice party you have goin'," commented Chris as he changed the subject.

"Yes . . . it looks like we'll have a great turnout," replied Inez. "Speaking of which, where's Buck?"

"He's not here yet?" asked Chris as his brow furrowed in question.

Inez shook her head 'no'.

"I think he had a couple things to take care of for a whale," replied Vin. "But he said he will definitely be here."

"Good," said Inez as a relieved smile crossed her face.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

The party was in full swing with Rain singing several Christmas carols before Inez, Orin Travis, and the three Marines joined her on stage.

Smiling to the crowd, Inez' gaze paused momentarily on Buck, glad to see he finally arrived. "Happy holidays, everyone!" said Inez. "Thank you for joining us on this very special night . . . when Rain and I suggested to Mr. Travis that we hold a Toys for Tots Campaign, we had hoped we would have a big turnout but you surpassed all of our expectations!!"

The crowd cheered as Rain continued, "Thanks to all of you we collected over 20 boxes of toys as well as $10,000 in money for the Marines' Toys for Tots Campaign."


Wolf whistles could be heard throughout the crowd as they applauded again.

"So, it our great pleasure to present these toys and donations to the United States Marines," stated Orin Travis as he handed one Marine an envelope with the money collected while Inez and Rain handed a football and teddy bear to the other two Marines.

The crowd cheered before the lead Marine stepped forward and said, "On behalf of the United States Marines, we would like to thank the Montecito employees and guests for their generous donations. We will make sure these toys and money go to the children. Thank you."

The crowd gave a standing ovation as Inez said, "Now how about some more songs from our wonderful singer, Rain!" Rain began to sing "Jingle Bell Rock" as the party continued.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

"Anything happen while we were gone?" asked Chris as he, Vin, and JD returned back to work after their short visit to the holiday party in Mystique.

"No sir, all was quiet," replied junior security officer Jack.

Nodding, Chris suggested, "Why don't you head down to the party? It's still in full swing . . ."

"Thanks sir, I will," said a smiling Jack as he quickly rose from his chair and headed out of the security office to join the festivities.

"JD, what's that?" asked Vin as he gestured to the box wrapped in Christmas paper that was sitting on JD's desk.

"I don't know," replied the computer specialist as he eyed the gift questioningly. "I don't see a card with it," he continued as he inspected it carefully.

"Open it up . . . maybe there's a card inside," suggested Chris.

Nodding JD carefully unwrapped the gift, revealing a plain brown box. Removing his pocket knife from his pocket, he opened it and slid it down the middle of the top of the box and then over each edge and then slipped the closed knife back into his pocket. Lifting each flap up JD peeked inside.

"What the heck?" he muttered as he reached in and removed his kidnapped Christmas hamster.

"It's your missin' hamster," said a surprised Vin.

"Did you guys do this?" asked JD as he looked to Chris and Vin. Both men shook their heads 'no'.

"Wait . . . there's a piece of paper in the bottom of the box," said JD as he pulled out the document and read it out loud, "We are letting your rat go only if he doesn't sing at work again."

JD pressed the hamster's little foot only to hear no "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". "What did they do to him?" he asked under his breath.

"I think he sounds pretty good to me," commented a smiling Vin.

JD cast a glare in his direction causing the smile to leave the Texan's face.

Turning his hamster upside down, JD removed a small screwdriver from his desk drawer and began to undo the two screws that held the covering in place. Once it was removed he said triumphantly, "That's the problem . . . they removed the batteries."

"Shame he won't sing anymore," said Chris, trying to sound sympathetically.

"Oh, I can fix it . . . I have extra batteries in my desk," said JD as he proudly pulled them out to show.

Vin held back a groan as JD placed two batteries in the hamster and screwed the cover back into place.

Pressing the button, the hamster began to move it's tiny arms while singing.

"There, he's all fixed!" said a smiling JD.

"Great," replied Vin sarcastically as he pulled out the Tylenol bottle from his desk drawer and flipped the cap off. Removing two tablets, he downed them with his soda.

Chuckling softly, Chris said, "I'll be in my office if anything comes up." Taking a seat behind his desk, he typed in his security password to unlock his computer.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement causing him to pause in his work. His gaze settled on the images causing a lump to form in his throat. It was a digital photo frame with pictures of Sarah and Adam; each one would appear on the screen for several seconds before being replaced with another picture.

Chris wasn't sure how long he had been staring at the slide show when he finally saw the note. It was written on a large post-it and read, "I know you lost almost all your pictures of Sarah and Adam so I asked friends and family for copies of photos they had and created this frame. To help you never to forget, Your friend, Buck."

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

"I can't believe you did it," commented Buck as he leaned against the bar while chatting with the beautiful manager of Mystique.

"Did what?" replied Inez coyly before taking a sip of her drink.

"You know . . . steal JD's hamster," whispered Buck as he leaned in close.

Inez glanced around; making sure no one heard the Hospitality Host's comment. "Well, I was just helping Chris out . . . he said if heard that rat sing one more time he was gonna shoot it . . ."

Buck laughed. "Yep, sounds like Chris."

"Anyway, I thought this way, it might save JD from burying his hamster," replied Inez.

Buck nodded.

"So you see I was doing JD a favor . . . and I borrowed it . . . not took it. . ." continued Inez.

"Don't know if JD will look at it that way," commented Buck.

"You're not gonna tell him, are you?" asked a suddenly very worried Inez. "You can't!"

"Well, maybe I can be persuaded not to. . ." stated Buck as he winked at her.

"You're incorrigible, Buck Wilmington," said Inez as she swatted the man's arm.

"Well, my lips can be sealed with a kiss," murmured Buck softly into her ear. . .



The Las Vegas Chronicles