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
"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
"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'
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"Where does it hurt?" asked Nate softly, noticing his friend's brow etched
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
"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."
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"Don't call my mother. . ." instructed Ezra before he slipped into a relaxed
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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. 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
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
Ezra shifted on the couch, hugging the stuffed elephant tighter as he continued
"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?"