Disclaimer: This story is the product of different minds coming together to have some fun. We have ownership over any new characters but the rest belongs to others (such a shame!).

Authors' Note: We came up with this idea about a year ago but it was pushed onto the back burner until now. Never been to Las Vegas (have to remedy that someday) so any relation to real hotels is purely concidential!!! Just a funny little piece so please don't scrutinize this too closely - just sit back and relax and go with the flow!!

Stealing the Pot - ATF

By Ladysmiths


Chris wandered around The Jewel, it had been the only hotel available for seven people at such short notice. Vin was at the roulette tables not looking real interested in what was happening; Josiah was teaching JD blackjack after Buck had left the kid to chase a cocktail waitress; and Nathan was getting a drink from the bar. After their assignment had ended early and seeing as they didn't have to be back at the office until Monday, Chris had suggested spending a couple of days in Las Vegas on their way back. No-one had objected, and Ezra had been as excited as Chris had ever seen him. Chris surveyed the room once more noting that he hadn't spotted the undercover agent. Approaching Nathan he asked, "Where's Ezra?"

"He found a poker game," Nathan answered.

"It didn't take him long," Chris observed. "We've only been here half an hour."

"He's in one of the private poker rooms," Nathan finished. "And now that you know where everyone is, are you going to relax?"

Chris' grin turned sheepish, but he didn't answer the question as he took the drink Nathan offered him.

* * * * * * *

Ezra kept his expression carefully neutral as he laid out his winning hand and reached to collect his winnings. But before he could pull the money towards him, someone came bursting through the door behind him. Ezra spun in his seat to face the interloper, who was wearing a mask and carrying a gun. As he automatically reached for his own weapon, Ezra remembered that he had deposited it in the safe before being allowed into the casino. Ezra flew out of his seat and swung at the thief, hoping that his four opponents would prefer losing legitimately to Ezra rather than being robbed.

The four gentleman were too shocked to be thinking about principles, they were all frozen in place as the assailant swung his gun and knocked Ezra in the side of his head. Ezra staggered backwards, and before he could regain his balance the guy had grabbed the winnings from the table and ran out the door.

When Ezra's head stopped spinning, he immediately gave chase. Unfortunately, Ezra didn't see which way his adversary went, and when Ezra reached the end of the corridor, he realised he must have gone the wrong way.

As Ezra headed back to the room, the other four men had decided to see the manager. Ezra shook his head and followed them, now they were acting indignant and were determined to get justice. Before, when they all could have overpowered their one attacker, they had just stood there and watched.

* * * * * * *

Ezra rubbed the side of his head as he approached his team mates.

"At least I ain't the only one," Buck muttered as he also rubbed the red mark on the side of his face.

"I can't see Ez harassing the waitresses," JD said.

"I was robbed," Ezra stated dejectedly.

"You mean you lost," Nathan corrected as he approached the undercover agent.

"No," Ezra became more vehement. "I was robbed. Somebody broke into the room, and when I tried to protect the mon... the innocent citizens in the room, he hit me with the weapon he was carrying and absconded with my winnings."

"Hold still," Nathan admonished as Ezra tried to move away. "There's only a slight bruise, and it's not bleeding."

"I came to inform you so that we could begin pursuing this contemptible felon," Ezra was ready to move now, although his friends didn't seem very enthusiastic.

"Didn't the cameras pick anything up?" Josiah asked.

Ezra shook his head, "I've just come from speaking with the Mr Campbell, the manager of this establishment. Apparently there was a glitch, nothing was recorded."

"Well, it's not really our jurisdiction," Chris said. "We should probably leave it to the local police.

Ezra stared at their leader, since when did Chris care about jurisdiction.

"Besides," Buck added. "It's not like you'll get the money back. Even if it's recovered, it'll be evidence, and it's not like we could prove how much you won or even how much you started with."

Ezra couldn't believe this, even Buck was talking about protocol, "It isn't about the money. A crime has been comm..."

"Geez, what happened to you?" JD interrupted.

Everyone turned around as Vin hobbled towards the group, one arm clutching his right side and some bruising appearing on his face. "I was mugged."

"What?" Nathan's attention had turned from Ezra to Vin. As he checked the sharpshooter over, Vin kept trying to brush him away.

"Did you see him?" Chris asked.

"They were wearing masks. They took all my money, including what I won," Vin answered as he pushed Nathan. "I'm fine."

Nathan gave up, "He'll live."

"We should split up. See if we spot anyone acting suspicious, or spending big. Check out the surrounding area, maybe it's been happening in other hotels. They hit you guys pretty close together, it seems like they need cash quickly," Chris stopped to take a breath.

The others were nodding their heads in agreement. However, Ezra stared at his friends incredulously, "I'm brutally attacked, and none of you blink and eye. Mr Tanner is relieved of a pittance of what I lost, and you are all spurred into action."

"There's a pattern now Ezra," Josiah explained.

JD looked thoughtful, "You know there's supposed to be a big poker game over at the Rabbit's Foot tonight."

"You think there's a connection between the robberies and the game," Nathan said it more like a statement then a question.

Josiah shook his head, "It seems unlikely. This is Las Vegas, there are always places to gamble with high stakes."

"Even if the two aren't connected," JD continued with his thread. "If these guys are obviously stealing from people who have won some money, whoever wins tonight's game might be a target."

Buck clapped JD on the back, "Good thinkin' kid."

Chris nodded his head, "I'll sign up. JD you stick close to me tonight and watch the game. Buck, Josiah and Nathan will come to the Rabbit's Foot as well, act like spectators, but keep moving around and see if you can spot anything suspicious. Ezra and Vin, I need you to cover this hotel, see if you can recognise the guys that attacked you, they seem to be hovering around this hotel for the time being."

"Okay," Vin mumbled as he walked away from the group towards the area he'd been staring at while Chris was speaking.

"I didn't mean now," Chris muttered, then turning to Ezra continued. "I was going to say that if you do recognise anyone you should come and signal us. If not, wait near the exit towards the end of the game. Hopefully I'll win and will be able to lead the culprits into the trap myself."

Ezra cocked an eyebrow, "You have high aspiration, these competitions are usually entered by professionals."

"How long 'til the game?" Buck wanted to know.

"It starts at ten," JD informed them.

"That leaves two hours," Chris grinned. "Plenty of time for Ezra to teach me how to cheat."

"Excuse me?" Ezra said. "I never use underhanded tactics to win, my accomplishments are achieved with skill and concentration."

Nathan rolled his eyes, "Yeah, right."

Chris grinned, "I'm not asking you to give away all your tactics, just enough for me to get through tonight."

"I told you that I don't use underha..." Ezra realised that no-one would believe him anyway and conceded. "Alright Mr Larabee, I'll show you some techniques. However, I do hope you have another plan, because you winning is not a very likely scenario."

"If someone else wins, we'll have to tail that person," Chris stated. "I'm assuming whoever's behind this will have them followed and attacked. We should be able to stop them before that happens."

Buck groaned, "Great, we get to spend all night out following some guy."

"It's not like you've got anything better to do," JD grinned as he pointed to the still red mark on Buck's face.

Buck scowled at the kid.

"Maybe the thief will be at the game, if he wins there'll be no need to attack anyone," Josiah suggested.

"If that's the case, we'll still have to tail him to catch him," Chris said, and turning to Ezra added, "So you and Vin come over around twelve and let Josiah know if you found anything, if not we'll all be ready to move."

"I'll inform Mr Tanner," Ezra nodded. "Now, if you still require those lessons."

Chris smiled and followed Ezra up the stairs.

JD bounded up behind them, "I want to learn how to cheat too."

"Skill and concentration..."

* * * * * * *

Ezra had to run to catch up to Vin, "Mr Tanner, in case you wondering, Mr Larabee and the others have departed."

Vin stopped mid-stride and faced Ezra, "Did you know that this place was supposed to hold that poker game?"

Ezra blinked, he hadn't expected to have to change his train of thought, "Are you going to enlighten me further? Or do I have to guess?"

"They lost the contract after people started getting robbed in this place," Vin finished.

"So it seems this is about rivalling companies," Ezra put everything together. "Perhaps we should call our associates back."

Vin shook his head, "Nah, if the people at the Rabbit's Foot are responsible, then the others are already in the right place."

"However, at least one employee here must be working for the other side. Presumably in the security section," Ezra watched as Vin nodded. "I'm assuming that is where you were heading."

"Wanna join me?"

Ezra grinned maliciously, and followed Vin.

* * * * * * *

Mr Campbell could hardly believe it when Vin and Ezra led one of his security staff into his office. He was even more startled when the two agents explained that the kid was responsible for the glitches in the camera equipment.

The manager called the Las Vegas Police, and Ezra and Vin retrieved their weapons from the safe. Ezra had noticed that one of the cameras was set to switch off automatically in ten minutes. Knowing that the thugs would be looking for the small light on the camera to turn off, both Vin and Ezra decided it would be best to leave things as they were, and catch these felons red-handed.

* * * * * * *

Ezra and Vin caught the felons red-handed, and actually apprehended them with minimal damage to the hotel.

Mr Campbell rushed up to placate his patrons and assure them everything was now taken care of.

"Who do you work for?" One of the police officers asked, they were leading the men that Vin and Ezra had handed over away.

"Peter Rakefield," Ezra answered for them as he and Vin followed the party outside. "He is the proprietor of that fine looking establishment over there," the undercover agent pointed towards the bright pink gawdy looking building.

"Circle around the building," the officer in charge ordered his men. "Bennett and I will go in and try to take Rakefield quietly. I don't want to stir up the crowd."

"We'll check the rooms upstairs," Vin stated.

And before the police officer could object, Ezra and Vin were already halfway up the back stairs.

* * * * * * *

Rakefield was sitting at the bar grinning at all the customers he had milling around the game, when the police approached. Not wanting to attract any unwanted attention to himself, Rakefield went quietly.

* * * * * * *

Ezra and Vin found Rakefield's office and immediately began searching.

"It looks as though he's been recording what he's stolen, and paying off his thugs all in the casino's logs, trying to make it look like legitimate profits and expenses," Vin said as he flicked through the ledgers he'd found.

"And fortunately for us, he decided to leave today's banking until tomorrow," Ezra grinned as he pulled the satchel of money out of the safe.

Vin eyes flicked towards the safe and then back to Ezra.

Ezra just shrugged, "The door was left ajar."

Vin smiled, "We should go and hand all this evidence into the police."

"Right behind you Mr Tanner."

As they worked their way through the crowd downstairs, Vin glanced over towards the table in time to see their leader lose another hand, "It doesn't look like Chris is doin' real well."

"Some people have it, and some people don't," Ezra remarked as they walked through the exit, without having looked for any other member of their team.

* * * * * * *

Vin and Ezra were just finishing breakfast as their five team mates shuffled towards them.

"Where have you guys been?" Vin inquired.

"Out tailing the winner all night," Buck grumbled.

"Not that it did much good, nothing happened,' JD added.

Chris looked pointedly at Vin and Ezra, "You two should have been with us, what happened?"

Vin stared at Ezra, he had no idea they were supposed to meet up and tail the winner. He'd just assumed they had seen Rakefield being arrested and would come back to the hotel.

Ezra glanced at Vin, he'd gotten so caught up in catching these guys he'd forgotten to tell Vin what the plan was. By the time he and Vin had gotten back from the police station, it was too late to catch up to them. Ezra hadn't expected them to tail the winner all night, he'd assumed they'd get weary and head back to the hotel eventually.

Because the arrests had taken place before the poker game had ended, and neither Vin nor Ezra had bothered signalling anyone, the rest of the team had actually wasted their entire night. Of course, neither man was willing to confirm that out loud, especially since Chris and the others were looking more than a little pissed at them right now.

Realising Chris wanted one of them to answer, Vin shrugged, "We gave up."

"You what?" Buck almost shouted.

"It is a shame all your effort was fruitless," Ezra tried to placate his friends.

"Yeah, the plan could've worked, just unlucky I guess," Vin added.

"Perhaps the miscreants have moved on," Ezra smiled ingratiatingly. "Although I must say it is very flattering that our friends would go to so much trouble to exact vengeance on our attackers."

The five men glared at Vin and Ezra incredulously, as Mr Campbell approached the group, "I just wanted to thank you guys again..."

"It was nothin'," Vin quickly interrupted.

"Mr Tanner is correct, although we do appreciate your gratitude," Ezra added.

"Nothing?" Campbell wanted to acknowledge what these men had done for him. "You saved my business. I had no idea that one of my own staff was in on it, or that the owner of the Rabbit's Foot was trying to put me out of business by attacking my patrons. You guys caught everyone involved and even found the books and money as evidence. I can't thank you enough."

"Your welcome," Vin and Ezra said in unison as they turned to their friends with remorseful expressions.

"You caught... You let us.... We wasted..." Buck stuttered.

"You two are unbelievable," Chris hissed.

Realising that this wasn't the best time to be around these men, Mr Campbell nodded his head to Vin and Ezra and hurried away from the group.

"You were supposed to signal Josiah if you found anything. But no, you two had to go off on your own," Chris continued.

"You even recovered the money and records yourselves," Josiah reiterated. "You know that it's evidence. If we check with the police and compare the records with the amount you handed over, do you think we will come up with the right amount?"

Chris stepped closer to Ezra and held out his hand, "Don't make me frisk you."

"This is so unfair. I won the money legitimately," Ezra grumbled as he handed over the notes.

"All of it," Buck grinned as he came up next to Chris.

Ezra sighed and reached into his jacket pocket.

"What about Vin?" JD asked, receiving a hurt look from the sharpshooter.

"Yeah, he has been hanging around Ez," Nathan stated. "And he is a quick learner."

Chris moved over to Vin with his outstretched hand, "Same threat as before."

"Here," Vin mumbled and then glared at Buck. "That's all of it."

"You know if you had been a quicker learner when I was teaching you the fine art of poker, all your discomfort could have been avoided," Ezra drawled.

Chris wasn't finished with these two yet, but right now he was too tired to deal with it, "I'm going to get some sleep. I'll give this money to police before we leave this afternoon. And I will be checking the amount with the records."

Chris stalked towards the stairs, with Buck, JD, Nathan and Josiah trudging along behind him.

"I suppose I should at least try to double this before Mr Larabee wakes up," Ezra stated as he pulled another lot of notes from his jacket.

Vin chuckled softly, not at all surprised that the undercover agent had kept some of the cash, "I think I'll join you."

"You'll have to satisfy yourself with observing. I'm afraid it's not in my nature to stake anybody."

Vin grinned, "Wasn't asking you to."

Ezra looked suitably impressed as Vin pulled some money out of the pocket of his jeans.

"I am supposed to be a quick learner."

THE END



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24/06/2000