|Primary Characters:||Veronica, Wallace, Mac, Logan|
|Warning:||adult themes, violence|
|Description:||Logan shows up at Veronica’s place, badly injured. Veronica has to think of something to keep Logan safe from his dad. This leaves Wallace all alone, leading him to discover someone else.|
Wallace walked into Veronica’s house, hoping they could spend the evening together. Seeing that she was about to leave, his face fell.
“Stakeout. Some slimeball is cheating on his wife and dad’s got some bigger case, so I’ll have to keep an eye on this sleazy motel.”
“Can I come and keep you company?”
Veronica considered it briefly. In a way, it might look good in case someone saw them. Two teenagers in a car, no doubt making out, away from parental supervision. On the other hand, she was a pro, Wallace was just an amateur. Her dad would freak out if she blew the case.
“Sorry. I think I need to cover this one on my own. But stick around. He’ll have to be back with his wife before 9 or 10 at the latest. I’ll be back and we could watch the late movie and have some snacks. Of course, I’ll understand if you want to go back home.”
“Are you kidding? My mom will have me painting the garage or something. I’ll be here. She said it was ok for me to spend the night. Well, she probably got the impression your dad’s going to be here, but -”
“He might. Depends on how the surveillance goes. He said it could be back really late. Probably more like early tomorrow morning.”
“Ok. No problemo. I’ll watch tv and have something from the fridge, or call for takeout. Is that cool?”
“Of course it is. You know you’re always welcome. If someone calls about a case, ask if you can take a message, ok?”
Veronica closed the door and hurried out to her car, leaving Wallace feeling a little let down. Not by Veronica, but by circumstances. He’d been looking forward to Friday night, all week. The nights he was allowed to spend at the Mars house were always so much nicer than being at home. Not that his mom was so bad, really. It was just that he was getting older. He needed to be able to feel independent once in a while.
With a sigh, he settled down on the couch, and reached for the remote control. He’d walk the dog a little later and maybe he’d call for that takeout. If he was lucky, Mac would come round. He could use the company, even if she wasn’t Veronica.
When his favorite show ended, he glanced at his watch. 10.45. Veronica was late. He was hoping she hadn’t run into any trouble, but he knew she was more than capable of dealing with most of the trouble she could meet with in Neptune. Better than he was.
As he was about to turn up the volume after the commercial, he heard a noise from outside. A wide grin spread across his face. There she was. He’d left her half the pizza and there was soda in the fridge. If she wasn’t too hungry, he’d share a slice with her. He turned off the tv and looked expectantly towards the door.
There was a slight noise, but no key turned in the lock. Wallace was beginning to feel a touch of concern. What if something had happened to her? If that creep had made her and – He got up and rushed over to the door.
“Hey, is someone there?”
A muffled noise was all the reply he got. Wallace considered opening the door to check who it was. Veronica had asked him to take a message, in case a new client showed up. The dog made him feel more safe than he would have otherwise. He cast one look at the dog, to reassure himself, and unlocked the door.
With a startled exclamation, Wallace stepped back. He certainly hadn’t expected Logan Echolls. Not this late at night anyway. Both boys stared at each other in silence for a moment, until Wallace realized there was something odd about Logan’s stance. About all of him, really. His face was bruised and stained with dried blood. He was cradling his right arm against his chest, a vacant, glazed over look in his eyes.
“Hey, what’s wrong? Come on in.”
At first it didn’t even look as if Logan recognized Wallace. It took a while until a glint of recognition came into his eyes. For a second, it seemed as if Logan was about to turn and go again, but suddenly, he appeared to reconsider. There was such a look of defeat on his face, Wallace felt sorry for him, like he’d never done before. Those rich, white kids usually didn’t exist in the same world he did. Now, Logan had suddenly fallen into another plane of existance, where ordinary people dwelled.
Unsteadily, Logan crossed the threshold and let Wallace shut the door behind him. It might have been Wallace’s imagination, but somehow, he looked relieved, as if he’d been afraid someone was following him. Recalling the night he had been attacked, Wallace studied the other boy intently. What had happened to him? Had he been robbed? That seemed the most likely explanation. Unlike Wallace, Logan probably walked around with stuff that was worth more than Wallace’s mom’s house and car together.
Painfully, Logan made his way over to the couch and sank down on it. Uneasily, Wallace remained standing over him, wondering if there was something he could do.
After a while, it seemed Logan became aware of something missing, or rather someone. His eyes began to search the room, and not finding what he was looking for, he faced Wallace again.
“Out on a stakeout. I was expecting her any time.”
“Hey, is there something I could do? Want me to call your dad?”
A look of panic flew across Logan’s ruined face.
The word hang in the air between them, startling in its intensity. Logan didn’t offer any explanation.
“Ok. Someone else? The cops?”
Logan didn’t even bother replying.
Wallace was beginning to feel oppressed by the silence and the sight of the other boy who was clearly badly injured. It was obvious he was in some pain. Wallace could tell by the way he nursed the unusable arm and the way he was sitting so upright, as if not daring to rest against the back of the couch.
Eventually, since Logan neither offered any explanations or made any requests, Wallace too, sank down on the couch, as far away from Logan as possible. He glanced worriedly at the other boy, not knowing what to do, or even if there was anything he could do. Perhaps he ought to call 911, but Logan had seemed violently opposed to any outside interference.
By now, the nervous tension made Wallace want to hear some sounds, even if it was only his own voice.
“That looks bad. It must hurt a lot, right? Looks like it’s broken.”
Now that he could hear himself talking, Wallace realized that he hadn’t improved conditions much. Logan didn’t seem to be listening to him anyway. The look in his eyes seemed to be focused inwards, and he might as well have been alone.
Recalling the night he’d made his way back to Veronica’s place after being attacked, he considered the possibility of Logan being in a state of shock. Perhaps he needed to stay warm. On the other hand, putting a blanket over his shoulders might hurt him more. If only Veronica had been around. She’d know what to do. Gingerly, Wallace moved a little closer and placed his hand on Logan’s shoulder. It had a startling effect. Logan recoiled violently, and looked as if he might try to defend himself, somehow, without the use of his right arm.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.”
The outburst was over almost as fast as it had begun. Logan slumped down again, and faced Wallace, with a look of such hopelessness and despair, Wallace forced himself to try again. Even more lightly now, he placed his hand on Logan’s shoulder. This time, Logan didn’t pull back.
That was how Veronica found them. Wallace flew out off the couch and met her by the door. He began to babble.
“Look who’s here. Logan showed up about twenty minutes ago and – he was asking for you and -”
Veronica ignored Wallace and dumping her shoulder bag on the floor, she ran up to Logan and kneeled in front of him. She placed a hand on his knee and made eye contact with him.
“What’s wrong, Logan? Tell me what’s happened.”
Seemingly no longer aware of Wallace’s presence, Logan began to talk, in a voice Wallace had never heard him use before. He sounded like a little boy.
“I knew it wouldn’t last long. Whatever he promised, he’ll never change.”
That seemed to mean more to Veronica than to Wallace, because Veronica gasped.
“Did he do this, Logan? Why?”
“I don’t know. Why does he ever do it? He said I was answering back. Maybe I did. To hell with him. But it’s been a long time since it was this bad.”
“How bad is it? Any broken bones? Can I feel that arm?”
Logan didn’t resist, when Veronica gently probed the arm he was cradling against his chest, but it must have hurt badly. The yell of pain made Wallace’s blood run cold.
“I see. Anywhere else? Can I look at your face?”
She was on her feet now, tilting Logan’s face up for her inspection. Her fingers lightly probed nose, cheeks, chin. None of it was as bad as the arm. She moved on to touch Logan’s ribs, and though there was no cry of pain, she could tell from the changed expression in his eyes that some were probably broken too.
“Logan, I can’t deal with this on my own. It’s too serious. He’s really gone too far this time. We’ll need to take you to the emergency room.”
“No. If the media get a hold of this, they’ll crucify him.”
“Why should you care what happens to him?”
“I – I can’t do it. He’d kill me.”
“Not if he’s securely locked up somewhere. Like San Quentin.”
“No. I can’t.”
“I can’t sit back and watch your arm heal crookedly either. You need to have it set properly, by a professional. I can’t do it. My dad can’t do it. Wallace can’t do it, right?”
Wallace shook his head.
“If we go there, someone’s bound to find out.”
Veronica had a speculating look on her face which made Wallace uneasy for some reason.
“Not if you use someone else’s social security. Wallace -”
“No way. My mom will kill me if we charge her insurance for this.”
“We”ll have to pay cash. How much do you have on you, Wallace?”
“Hm. That won’t get us far. I have – sixty, plus another hundred in the emergency – jar.”
Logan seemed to make an effort to focus.
“I have money. We can pay cash. Please, Wallace. I’ll – do anything.”
“That’s ok, isn’t, Wallace?”
“Sure. As long as my mom never finds out.”
“Good. Wallace, do you have a bike?”
“Yeah, you know I do.”
“Where is it?”
“At my house.”
“Does anyone know it’s there now?”
“I don’t think so. Why?”
“You were robbed tonight, Wallace. Some guys pushed you off your bike and beat the crap out of you and took your bike. Just for a laugh. The bike is ok, you’ll find it later in some shrubs. Ok?”
Wallace resigned himself to his fate. Veronica seemed to have it all figured out. And as long as the bike was ok and no money left his mom’s account, he thought it would be ok. They couldn’t leave Logan in so much pain. And if his arm healed crookedly, would he ever be able to use it? It was his right arm too.
“We’ll have to sneak back and get the bike and – leave it someplace.”
“Ok. I promise we’ll get it back.”
Logan stared pleadingly at Wallace.
“If anything happens to it, I’ll buy you a new one. Honestly.”
“Ok. No problem.”
They managed to get the bike without anyone waking up at the Fennel residence and Wallace rode his bike to a place Veronica told him about. Fortunately, it was in the exact opposite direction from the playground where he’d been attacked. Veronica and Logan followed in her car.
They drove to the nearest town, to avoid the risk of Logan being recognized, though personally, both Veronica and Wallace thought the risk was as big all over California. Still, what else could they do?People looked different on tv. Who could say for sure how Logan Echolls, Aaron Echolls’ son, would look in real life?
Veronica supported Logan on the way inside. They left Wallace sitting in the back seat of the car, in the parking lot. He was glad he didn’t need to come inside with them. Veronica might be expert at lying. For all he knew Logan might be too, but Wallace knew he could never lie convincingly, so it was just as well he didn’t have to.
Once inside, Veronica called for help.
“Hey, can someone help my friend?”
A nurse walked up to them, looking as if she intended to tell them to sit down, but when she took in Logan’s injuries, she appeared to reconsider.
“Ok. Come this way. What happened?”
Logan glanced at Veronica for reassurance, then launched into the tale they’d agreed on.
“I was out riding my bike, when four guys pushed me off and began to beat me. They took my bike and left me there.”
“Right. In here. The doctor will be with you soon.”
She didn’t sound exactly convinced of that latter part, but she took Logan’s – Wallace’s info, and left again. Veronica was hoping they wouldn’t be here all night. If her dad came back, he’d worry. Worse, he might lose confidence in her and she’d be grounded, like any other teenager.
After a while, a nurse came to clean Logan up a bit. Apparently, the theft of a bike and a fight between teenagers didn’t warrant any phone call to the police. That was a relief. Veronica wasn’t sure Wallace’s social security card would stand up to that kind of scrutiny.
The nurse cut off the t-shirt and laid out some bandages and scissors on a table. She left, with another reassurance that the doctor would be there shortly. Fortunately, she was right. A Hispanic man in his late forties looked in and seeing Logan he walked inside, closing the door behind him.
“Ok, let’s take a look at you.”
He examined the arm as gently as possible, but Logan whimpered in pain several times anyway. The doctor nodded to himself, then went on to probe the ribs and the face. Again, he seemed to make a mental note to himself.
“Your arm is broken. You have contusions on your face and torso, and some ribs are broken, but it’s nothing serious. Any headache or dizziness? Nausea?”
“No. Not really. It hurts, but nothing like that.”
“Good. I don’t think you have a concussion. Did you black out at all?”
“Good. Ok, we’ll need to put that arm in a cast, but first we’ll have to set it. That’s going to hurt a bit, so I’ll give you something for the pain. Just a second. I’ll get nurse and we’ll get started.”
When they walked back out to the car, Logan’s arm was a in cast and he looked at least marginally better. The painkiller was helping, but Veronica guessed it was more than that. It must be unnerving to see one’s arm hanging at such an odd angle, when you knew by instinct that wasn’t the way an arm was supposed to look. Perhaps Logan was feeling calmer because someone had taken charge.
The day Veronica had realized that Logan’s dad beat him, and worse, no one in the family even believed it, or cared, part of the puzzle concerning Logan’s behaviour fell into place. From what little she knew about Logan’s mother, she didn’t care more about him than Aaron appeared to do. Trina, Logan’s older half-sister, didn’t believe him or care that he was being beaten. For a while, that had really put her own situation into perspective. On the other hand, her mom was in danger. Someone had forced her to leave her family and go on the run. That was just as bad as what Logan was going through.
They drove back to Veronica’s place in silence. Wallace cast an uneasy look at Logan now and again. He hadn’t quite understood who was responsible for Logans condition, but he had come to realize that they probably wouldn’t call the cops. For some reason, that wasn’t going to work. It struck him that it had to be Logan’s dad. Or why else wouldn’t it be possible to report the incident to the authorities? Unless there was more to Logan’s injuries than met the eye. Wallace again dwelled painfully on the memories of the night he’d had his life changed forever by a group of masked men. But why would anyone do that to Logan? He mustn’t imagine that sort of thing everywhere. People had other problems too.
“Did your dad do this?”
Logan stared at Wallace as if he’d only now remembered the other boy’s presence. He glanced at Veronica, seeking support, then nodded.
Wallace looked incredulous, as he took in what Logan had told him.
“My mom hits me, but it’s never been this bad.”
“Yeah, well, he works out.”
Logan tried laughing experimentally, but immediately regretted it.
“But, I mean – how can he – you’re seriously hurt.”
“It’s not the first time. He’s been doing this forever. At least since I was twelve or so. He says I talk back. Act smart. I provoke him.”
Now Veronica felt she had to cut in. It sounded an awful lot as if Logan was defending his dad.
“Logan, that’s just excuses. I’m beginning to think your dad’s really sick.”
“You and me both.”
“What about your mom? Did she ever -”
Logan made a small noise of distress that made Veronica regret asking. She should have known how much Logan missed his mother, no matter how badly she had treated him.
“I don’t know. Maybe she didn’t know, or didn’t want to know. Maybe she – didn’t care.”
“I’m sure she’d care if she knew.”
“I used to think so, but maybe I was wrong.”
“Never mind, Logan. I care. I wish there was something I could do to help.”
She was beginning to go through the options at her disposal. As long as Logan chose to protect his dad, there wasn’t much she could do. Her dad knew the sheriff. She knew Deputy Damato. They could talk to someone at school, but chances were a man like Aaron Echolls would be able to have the matter hushed up. Someone like Aaron Echolls would be virtually beyond the reach of the law. That led her to consider what she’d do if Aaron showed up again, demanding to his son back. She’d need to have some insurance.
The nurse had cleaned Logan up, but the bruises still covered his face and left their telltale sign clearly visible. She could document them in a series of photos. The arm in the cast too. Of course, none of that would prove anything about who was responsible. For that, she needed Logan himself.
She parked the car and helped Logan out of the car. He looked so pathetic, all huddled up underneath Wallace’s jacket.
Once inside, Veronica decided to bring up the topic right away, so Logan could get to bed. He looked as if he could really use the sleep.
“Logan – it would really help if you’d let me take some photos of your injuries.”
There was a note of suspicion in his voice.
“I’m not pressing charges.”
“That’s not why I need them. Remember the last time you were here? Your dad came to take you away. What if he comes back again? I’d like to have something to use against him. Some leverage, if it comes to that.”
After a moment’s consideration, Logan nodded, looking as if he was only half paying attention. He didn’t seem to have much fight left in him.
Veronica removed the jacket and handed it back to Wallace who dumped it on a chair, without looking very closely. It fell to the floor and Veronica’s dog began to crumple it up, then lay down on it, looking contented.
She picked up the digital camera and took several shots of Logan’s face, chest and arm. The closeups of his bruised face were very effective.
“Logan – this won’t do any good if we don’t have your statement. I’d like to record you telling in detail how it happened, and exactly what he did. Mention how many years this has been going on and what other injuries you’ve had. There has to be medical records. Could you do that? I swear I won’t use them unless I have to. We’ll put them in a safe place where only I can get to them. Ok?”
“I don’t know. Veronica, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I really don’t want to go into all that now. I’ve spent all these years trying to not to think about it at all.”
“Will you do it later, if your dad tries to take you away?”
“If I have to. I just hope it won’t come to that.”
“Me neither. It just pays to be prepared.”
Logan sounded so tired, Veronica felt a stab of concern. She considered where she would put him. There was her bed, her dad’s bed and the couch. Her dad’s bed was bigger, but if he returned, endless explanations would be needed. The last thing Logan needed was that kind of attention from a grownup. No, it would have to be her bed. She was hoping she would be able to give him enough space so he wouldn’t get hurt.
“Come on. Let’s get you to bed. Wallace, I’m going to let Logan sleep in my bed tonight. You’ll be ok on the couch, won’t you?”
Wallace stared at Veronica in dismay. He hadn’t slept in her bed for a while now, but the thought of Logan there made him feel a stab of resentment. Why him? That rich kid had everything else. Would he have Veronica too now? Immediately, Wallace felt guilty. Logan had just told him that he didn’t have anyone who cared, except Veronica. His dad used him as a punching bag. His mom couldn’t care less even when she was still around, and it didn’t sound as if Logan’s sister cared much more. At least he had his mom and brother, even if he didn’t have Veronica, or at least not as much as he wanted her.
Logan was beyond caring about any sleeping arrangements. He let himself be led docilely into Veronica’s room and didn’t even object when Veronica undressed him further. Wearing nothing but his shorts, he obediently stretched out on her bed. She pulled up the covers and bunched up the pillows.
“Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything to eat or drink?”
Logan didn’t look remotely interested, so Veronica decided to just bring him a glass of water. He couldn’t have had any fluids at all since coming to her house, and maybe not for a long time before that.
She placed a hand behind his neck and managed to get him to drink more than half the glass. That would have to do.
She returned to Wallace to check on him. It had probably been a shock to him, finding Logan on her doorstep like this.
“How are you doing?”
“I’m fine. Just a little worried about my bike.”
“We’ll bring it back in the morning. You’ll ‘find’ it and it will be ok.”
“Yeah, ok. No problem. I had no idea Logan’s dad hit him.”
“No, I guess that would be a surprise to a lot of people. So, will you be able to sleep out here?”
“Sure. Uh – Veronica – if your dad comes in, what do we say to him?”
That hadn’t occurred to her. If her dad found Logan sleeping in her bed – she’d deal with it if she had to. She could say that she’d let Logan sleep there, and she was only in there to check on him. Her dad would believe that, especially if she slept in her clothes, which she intended to do anyway. Logan might need something. Painkillers. Water. The bathroom. Much easier if she was fully dressed.
Logan woke up twice during the night, crying, whimpering in pain. Veronica got up to give him some of the painkillers, then gently stroked his hair until he fell asleep again. Even when he was asleep he moved about and made little noises of pain.
She didn’t get much sleep, but that was just as well. Around five or so, her dad walked in, catching her coming back from the bathroom. That gave her the chance to explain.
She’d given it a bit of thought, and decided to tell her dad almost everything. That meant using the stolen bike story, even though she knew she’d have to abandon it later, if her dad got it into his head to check on the details. Logan’s bike was something completely different from Wallace’s for one.
Her dad insisted on taking a look at Logan, and then the inevitable question followed.
“Why is he spending the night here? Did it happen around here?”
She could hear the disbelief in his voice. When was Logan ever caught slumming in her part of town? This wasn’t going very well. She forced herself to meet her dad’s gaze squarely, hoping he wouldn’t be too old a hand at seeing through a practiced liar’s routine, in this particular case.
“No. He just wanted to be among friends. The pain -”
“That’s what I’m concerned about. He should be at home, with his dad. What did Aaron say?”
Veronica felt her mind go blank. What could she say about that?
“Are you hiding something from me?”
“Of course not. It’s just that Logan and his dad aren’t getting along that well right now, after Lynn’s -”
“What’s that got to do with anything? This is serious. I really think Logan should be at home at a time like this.”
“Dad, please. He wants to stay here.”
Keith Mars sighed. It was hard to deny Veronica anything, but he didn’t want to face an enraged celebrity demanding to have his son back.
“Veronica – are you hiding something?”
“Just ask Logan. He asked if he could stay, and I said yes. His dad’s ok about it. You know how busy he is.”
“I also know he’s taking a break from acting right now. After Lynn -”
“That doesn’t mean he’s not busy.”
Veronica stared at her dad, willing him to back down. She wouldn’t stand for Logan being sent back to his dad. Not as long as there was something she could do about it.
Keith smothered a yawn. They were waking the Fennel boy. Better to have this discussion in the morning. If Aaron Echolls hadn’t missed his son by now, he probably wouldn’t come round looking until later.
“Ok, Veronica. Let Logan sleep. I need to get some shut-eye myself, and we’re waking Wallace. Wait a minute. Where are you sleeping?”
“Not really sleeping at all. I have to keep an eye on Logan.”
“You should have used my bed. Go on. I’ll -”
“No, that’s ok. I’ll sleep in the morning.”
Keith shook his head. Veronica would do as she pleased, he knew that. Besides, even if she did stretch out next to Logan, he’d seen with his own eyes what shape Logan was in. There wouldn’t be anything going on in there a father needed to be concerned about. Veronica was just worried about her friend. That was one of the things about his daughter that made her so special. Her kindness.
“Right. If you need anything, just shout, ok?”
After her dad had closed the door to his room, Veronica exhaled. What a relief her dad had backed down. It just occurred to her that if he found out the truth about Logan’s injuries, and he decided to take on Aaron Echolls, they’d need to move from Neptune. Just like he never stood a chance against Jake Kane, he couldn’t win against someone like Aaron Echolls. They might as well pack up and leave, and despite everything that had happened in the past year or so, Veronica knew she’d miss Wallace, Logan, Duncan, Mac and the rest of them. Leo and Weevil and Meg too. No. She didn’t want to have to run away.
On the other hand, she might have to take on Aaron herself. If only she could get Logan to give her that recorded statement. Aaron would back down if he knew she had that kind of evidence. She just hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
In the morning, Wallace was the first one to wake up. He realized Veronica’s dad had returned, and he hadn’t even woken up. Not properly. He vaguely recalled voices talking nearby, but he hadn’t really been able to rouse himself enough to pay attention.
Logan was awake too, but Veronica had finally managed to fall asleep. With an effort, Logan managed to get out of bed without waking her. He needed more painkillers, but he didn’t know where Veronica had put them, so he decided to wait. Awkwardly, he made his way into the bathroom, hoping desperately he’d be able to manage on his own in there. If not, he’d be left with the choice between asking Veronica to help him, or Wallace. Neither option felt very attractive. Fortunately, he was able to handle it on his own, just about.
On his way out, he ran into mr Mars and, startled, he backed off.
“Hello, Logan. I heard what happened. Did you report your missing bike to the police?”
“No. What’s the point?”
“What about the attack?”
“No use. I didn’t recognize them.”
Keith had the distinct impression the boy was lying to him. There was something about all this that didn’t feel quite right. He knew, from his time as the sheriff, and as a father, that kids could get up to all kinds of foolishness. You were only young once. If that was all there was to it, there would be nothing to worry about. He was hoping that was all there was to it. In any case, he was sure neither Veronica or Logan would tell him. It was as if anyone older than 25 or so was the enemy. Of course, he could still recall his own youth and knew that having your parents or teachers find you out wasn’t at all appealing.
“Ok. Did your dad really give you permission to stay here?”
“Oh, he doesn’t mind.”
Again, Keith had the impression Logan was lying. There was something about the way he looked when his father was mentioned, that gave Keith an uneasy feeling. Could it be that Logan blamed his father for his mother’s suicide? It was easy enough to look for a scapegoat after something like that had happened. In time, he was sure Logan would get past it and reconnect with his dad. This wasn’t any of his business anyway. Why not let the kids hang out for a while? It was Saturday. Which reminded him. He’d better get over to the office. It was late enough as it was.
“Grab some breakfast in the kitchen, if you like, Logan. Wallace is already in there. If you want to stay longer, we do have an extra bed. Ask Veronica to show you.”
Logan looked embarrassed. So he’d been right in his guess where Veronica had been sleeping. Oh, well, no harm in it. Keith wouldn’t make things awkward for the kids.
“Well, I’m late for work so I’ll be off. Call if you need anything.”
“Thanks, mr Mars.”
Around noon, Mac walked in. By that time Veronica was awake and the two boys were sitting on the couch watching tv. Veronica was in the kitchen getting a glass of orange juice. She knew she needed coffee, but she was trying to stay healthy, so the orange juice won out.
Mac said hi to the boys and sat down. She hadn’t seen Logan since the embarrassing photos of his dad and Jake Kane and Conner Larkin had hit the media. She had managed to help Conner, and indirectly Logan’s and Duncan’s fathers. Since then she’d met Conner twice, and had been given the grand tour of the movie set, but after that, Conner seemed to have forgotten about her.
She was startled to see the state Logan was in.
Logan appeared to be thinking. What did he tell Veronica’s friend? Wallace had stumbled across his secret by accident, but he didn’t feel like telling his story again. What would Mac think anyway? He wasn’t a little kid anymore. If he let his dad beat him like this, what kind of a guy did it make him?
“Oh, you know, got into some trouble last night. Nothing major.”
Mac decided not to push. She didn’t know Logan that well and if he didn’t want to tell her, that was his business.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Have you heard anything from Conner?”
Logan stared at her blankly, as if he couldn’t remember the name. Conner wasn’t his favorite person right now, though when he thought about it, it was all his dad’s fault. Who could blame Conner for looking out for his career? Another reason Logan would never get into the movie business himself. Too sleazy for him. It would be just like home. His home. He’d be very much surprised if anything like that went on in Mac’s, Wallace’s or – especially Veronica’s home.
“Yeah. He and my sister Trina are really thick right now. Like this.”
Logan was about to raise his right hand to show Mac just how close Trina and Conner were, when he remembered that he couldn’t use his right arm at all. Besides, he’d heard the forlorn note in Mac’s voice. Typical. All the girls felt like that about Conner. What was so special about him? Logan couldn’t see it. Perhaps that was the point. Still, Mac was a nice enough girl. He might as well say something.
“I’m sorry, Mac. Never trust an actor further than you can throw him. Whatever he promised you -”
“He didn’t promise me anything.”
Mac spoke so quickly, it was obvious Logan had touched a nerve. He was too intent on his own pain, internal and external, to pay attention. Only Wallace noticed, but he didn’t know what to say anyway. Though he didn’t know it, he was in perfect agreement with Logan about one thing. He couldn’t see anything very special about Conner.
“You’d think that most girls would want to stay away from him now that they’d seen the photos. Oh, that’s right, you fixed that, didn’t you? And this is how he shows his gratitude to you. Of course, Trina’s got the hots for dad in a bad way, so I guess the fact that he had Conner before her is only making it all the more interesting to her.”
There was a shocked silence in the room, following Logan’s unexpected outburst. Wallace had to remind himself that Logan was probably off balance after what his dad had done to him. Mac stared in confusion at Logan. She knew Trina was Logan’s half-sister. Anyone who had followed Aaron Echolls’ career knew about his family situation. And here was Logan hinting that Trina was attracted to her own dad. In any case that told her how resentful Logan must be, towards both his dad and his sister.
The same awkward silence was still heavy about the room when Veronica walked in.
“What’s up? I see you’ve met Logan.”
“Logan, we’ll need to do something about your stuff. Would you like me to go over to your house and pick something up?”
“No. Never mind. Anyway, you can’t just walk in there.”
“Yes, I can. You remember how Trina suggested we hang out while she’s here. I think today is a perfect time for me to – hang out with her. At your place.”
It had occurred to Veronica that she would confront Trina about what Aaron was doing to Logan. She was Logan’s sister. If she found out the truth, surely she’d care? Veronica couldn’t imagine she wouldn’t.
“I’m sorry to leave you guys alone, but it will only be an hour or so.”
Mac was only being polite. On the other hand, she always enjoyed hanging out at Veronica’s place, away from her well-meaning adoptive parents. Wallace was ok, and – well, she didn’t really have anything against Logan either. Not that they’d ever moved in the same circles before. She was wondering what Logan was doing at Veronica’s place. It seemed like such an odd place for him to be. But she knew he wouldn’t confide in her, so she contented herself with patting the dog and watching tv with the guys. If she’d known Veronica wouldn’t be around, she might as well have stayed at home. With the door locked, she’d be ok, safe from her tiresome family.
Veronica was afraid she’d run into Aaron. If she did, she knew she wouldn’t be able to resist giving him a piece of her mind. But there was no sign of him, so she’d been worrying needlessly. At first, she didn’t think she’d see Trina either, but when she asked the butler – a butler, for crying out loud? – he informed her that ms Echolls was upstairs, talking on the phone. Veronica was prepared to wait downstairs, but apparently, her name had been mentioned around the Echolls’ house, and it didn’t seem as if she was on any blacklist, so she was ushered upstairs.
She waved at Trina, who idly waved back, hurriedly finishing the call. From what little Veronica could hear, she was making plans with some guy. In fact, the innuendos gave her the impression they were going on a date. She was wondering if it was Conner, and her suspicion was confirmed almost right away.
“Oh, Veronica. I was going to call you some day. Today is not a good time. I’m meeting Conner in a little while, but I suppose I have half an hour or so. You’ve grown. Well, at least you look older. More grown-up. I heard you and Duncan aren’t seeing each other anymore. Who are you dating now? That black kid? The basketball player?”
“I’m not dating anyone seriously right now. There’s this older guy, Leo -”
Trina wasn’t really paying attention. Her mind was already on her date with Conner. She’d seen those hot pictures of her dad and Conner. With Jake Kane, fancy that. Who would have guessed? Trina would much rather have Jake Kane as a step-parent, than Lynn, any day. How cool.
And those images of Conner’s body had really turned her on. As it happened, she now knew that the real thing was every bit as great. Mm. Yummy. Who could blame dad for not being able to keep his hands off Conner? Besides, dad was such a hottie himself, it couldn’t have been such a chore for Conner either. Really hot. At first when she’d asked him about it, Conner had been very reluctant to talk about it, but after a while, when he realized how stimulating his story was to her, he’d opened up. Now they talked about it all the time when they – Oh, she really needed to get rid of little Veronica. All this girlfriend stuff was fine in a way, but it wasn’t like dating a guy.
“Listen, Veronica, you should have called first. I have to get going. See you later.”
“Just a second. I’ve got something to show you.”
Veronica hoped Logan would forgive her. She handed over the printouts she’d made of the photos documenting Logan’s injuries, studying Trina’s face intently. The older girl’s expression never changed.
“Can’t you see what it is?”
“Yeah, but Logan knows a lot of makeup artists. This doesn’t prove a thing.”
Veronica noted that she never once asked who was responsible for Logan looking like that.
“That’s no makeup. I’ve seen him up close.”
“So? He got in a fight. Big deal. Guys are always -”
“Your dad did this to him, Trina.”
Trina looked as if she was about to call the butler up to show Veronica out, then she made an effort to act politely.
“Listen, Veronica, Logan’s always been difficult. If dad lost his temper with him this once -”
“This once? Logan’s told me it’s been going on since he was twelve or so.”
“Really? Well, he’s always been hard to handle. Must take after Lynn. You really can’t blame dad.”
“Trina, he broke Logan’s arm. Several ribs too and you’ve seen his face. That’s -”
“I don’t have time for this. We’ll have to talk some other time. You know the way out. Call me. We’ll do lunch.”
“Can I just pick up some stuff for Logan first?”
“Oh, whatever. Knock yourself out. So the little weazel’s holed up at your place. How does Leo feel about that?”
“I haven’t told him yet. Maybe I should.”
Trina was hardly listening anymore. Her mind was on the date with Conner. In a way, it was touching the way little Veronica was sticking up for her friend Logan. Very sweet. Naturally, she’d have no idea what a pain Logan could be. But that was her problem. Good riddance. If Logan wanted to go slumming with the ex-sheriff and his daughter, that was really his business.
With Logan’s clothes and other stuff packed in the trunk of her car, Veronica drove back home, her mind dwelling on how indifferent Trina had appeared. How could she not care what happened to her younger brother? Had she always hated him that much, for coming into her dad’s life? Or was it simply that he was Lynn’s son? Everyone knew that Trina’s mother hadn’t accepted her divorce gracefully. Even though Aaron was notorious for cheating with just about everyone in a skirt – and now that she knew about Jake Kane Veronica guessed it would be everyone young and handsome enough to qualify – Trina’s mother had wanted to hang on to her celebrity husband. Of course, she was in the business herself, so maybe she did well enough on her own.
When she got back, Veronica asked Logan to come into her room to talk privately. Wallace stared miserably after them. It was beginning already. He was losing Veronica, before he’d even admitted to himself that he wanted her. With a sigh, he resigned himself to the situation and began to talk to Mac. She really was a very nice girl too. Not as sexy as Veronica, but kind of cute and extremely smart. Wallace wasn’t stupid himself, but he really admired brains in other people.
With the door closed behind them, Veronica first held up the bag she’d packed for Logan.
“I got some of your stuff.”
His gaze slid indifferently across the bag as Veronica set it down on the floor.
“Logan, please. Let me take your statement and record it. It’s just as an insurance. if your dad comes here, we can persuade him to let you stay here.”
“I don’t like it. He’d be so furious, I’m afraid he’d hurt you too.”
“No. He’s not going to touch me. Not when I explain to him that I have the evidence locked up somewhere safe. If I had it published, he’d be in a lot of trouble.”
“You wouldn’t do that.”
“He doesn’t know that.”
“Is it really necessary? I don’t like to even think about it. It makes me feel like such a loser. If anyone knew, they’d think I was -”
“I’d feel safer if I knew I had the evidence tucked away in a safe place, but if you don’t want to, I guess it’s enough that you’ll be prepared to testify against him. Or at least that we can make him think you would.”
“I can’t see him again. After he came here to pick me up, I really thought he’d changed. He sounded so different. Like he really cared. Then last night, he just went out of his mind. I thought this time – he might really kill me.”
Veronica felt her eyes go suspiciously moist and she hurriedly blinked to clear her sight. Compared to most of what she’d experienced in the past year or so, this was even more terrifying. She began to consider telling her dad. If the worst came to the worst, they’d have to fight Aaron through the legal system. She wouldn’t stand by and let him beat his son to death, even if it meant having to leave her home town forever. As long as she had her dad, and could get her mom back, she’d be ok anywhere.
It seemed Logan too was shaken by what he’d just told her, or rather the memories of the night before. He looked so miserable and terrified, Veronica didn’t hesitate to pull him into her arms. Somehow, it didn’t feel half as odd as the first time, when he’d found Trina at that hotel, instead of his mom, as he’d been so desperately hoping. He leaned into her and let her hold him, taking comfort from the embrace.
Veronica felt herself fill up with a cold, controlled rage. Aaron would pay for this, one way or another. Perhaps she could get Weevil and his gang to beat him up. He really deserved to feel the same pain Logan did. Normally, revenge wasn’t the first thing on her mind, but what Aaron had done to his son, had caused a change to go over her. Right now, she was after the actor’s blood.
Her mind had been so intent on planning the revenge she felt Aaron Echolls deserved, she’d missed the change in Logan’s attitude. When his mouth reached for hers, she was taken totally by surprise. Her body reacted instinctively and she found herself sharing a first kiss with Logan. It wasn’t like with Duncan, but she soon found that she didn’t have a problem with that. In a way, this felt even more right. Maybe Duncan was her half-brother. Leo’s kisses excited her, but with Logan she felt more – in tune with him. As if – she was falling in love with him. How had that happened?
She tasted blood and realized they’d opened one of Logan’s wounds. He stirred uneasily and pulled back, a regretful look on his face. Veronica felt guilty for forgetting he was in pain.
“We should probably get back to the others.”
“Hm. I guess so. I’d just like to change clothes. If I could just -”
It occurred to Logan that he probably didn’t want Veronica to help him in the shower. The way he felt right now, he’d want to do things he would be even less capable of than cleaning himself up. Did he want Wallace to help him? No, but what choice did he have? He could hardly ask mr Mars to come in and give him a bath, as if he was three years old. Perhaps he’d better settle for a quick splash in front of the washbasin. That, he could handle on his own.
It took him a lot longer than he’d expected, but it felt great to get out of the clothes he’d worn when – last night. Slowly and painfully he was able to remove his shorts and put on a new pair and a pair of jeans. Humiliatingly, he realized he’d never manage to get his socks on. Given the choices he had, he decided that he’d let Veronica do that for him. Wallace would probably thank him for that, unless – Logan smiled crookedly – the other guy probably felt the same way about Veronica. Oh, well, nothing to be done about that. May the best guy win and all that.
To Veronica’s and Logan’s surprise, Aaron did nothing to get Logan back. His unexpected absence made them wonder what he could be thinking. Logan had left a message for the servants that he was staying with a friend. That ought to have been enough to send Aaron chasing after him all across Neptune, starting at the Kane residence, working his way round to Veronica’s place. But almost a week passed with no word from Aaron.
In that time, Wallace and Mac saw so little of Veronica, they were beginning to despair of her. They found themselves thrown into each other’s company. At first, it felt awkward. especially after they realized what was going on between Veronica and Logan. Mac had known for a long time how Wallace felt about Veronica and sympathized. She hadn’t been dating anyone for a while, but briefly, she’d been foolish enough to have hopes centered around Conner Larkin. Stupid of her. A guy like that would prefer someone like Trina Echolls any day.
She felt sorry for Wallace, and after the initial awkwardness, she decided to take pity on him. It might not be much consolation for him, but if he needed a friend, she was there for him. In fact, she too needed a friend. Veronica was about her only close friend at Neptune High.
To Wallace’s dismay, one night when mr Mars was away working a case out of town, Veronica took Logan on a stakeout. She’d told him she couldn’t justify taking him along and now she took Logan. It didn’t take a genius why she’d changed her mind. Wallace felt really stupid. She just saw him as a kid, a charming, nice kid, but that was all. Apparently, she felt completely differently about Logan Echolls.
He had already asked his mother’s permission to spend the night, and he wasn’t going to change his mind now, so he just told Veronica that he’d be ok and that he’d keep an eye on the dog. That wouldn’t be such a big deal. He and the dog got along great. At least it was some company. But it turned out he’d do better than that. Just after Veronica and Logan had left, Mac showed up. She looked just as disappointed as he felt.
“Isn’t Veronica here?”
“No. Just me and the dog.”
“Oh. I just managed to wiggle out of going on another dreary camping trip, by telling my parents that I’d promised to spend the weekend with Veronica.”
“Same here. Well, not a camping trip, but a boring visit from mom’s cousins from Alberquerque. Actually, I told her we’d be a group of people. She’s been acting a little strange about me spending the night here at Veronica’s place all the time. If she’d known Veronica wasn’t even going to be here, maybe she would have quit worrying so much.”
“I’d ask you over to my place sometimes, but it’s much nicer here. More peaceful. You have no idea how tiresome my family is.”
“You should see mine in action. Oh, sit down. I was just about to watch a movie.”
Mac found that the movie actually looked fun. She hadn’t known that she and Wallace had the same taste in movies. There was a big bowl of popcorn on the table. She took a handful, but promised herself she’d get something less fattening later on. Soon they were laughing so hard, the dog stared wonderingly at them. As it grew later and they were a little more tired, Wallace found himself sliding down a bit and after a while, he was leaning on Mac’s shoulder. She didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she leaned into him too.
After the movie, they went into the kitchen. Wallace had long since gotten over his inhibitions about helping himself to stuff in the Mars refrigerator. Mr Mars no longer found his presence surprising. In fact, Wallace had noticed that someone – maybe Veronica – had taken to buying his favorite brand of peanut butter.
“There’s another movie on in five minutes. A sci fi movie. Do you like that?”
Mac grinned contentedly. Did a fish swim? Did Windows suck big time? She just hadn’t known Wallace was into sci fi. He had struck her as more the action movie type or a comedy fan. Even horror seemed more his style.
“Are you kidding? I love sci fi. Come on.”
The movie was so interesting they began to feel more and more awake as the night wore on. By the time the movie ended, they were so wired, their minds weren’t on sleep anymore. They discussed the movie animatedly until suddenly, they fell silent. Wallace’s eyes were shining with excitement. They beamed at her, and Mac grinned back just as enthusiastically. He’d never noticed just how pretty she was. She was totally different from Veronica, but now he realized that in her own way, she was just as sexy.
Mac was stunned to realize that for once she was actually feeling attracted to a guy her own age. Normally, she always fell for guys who were several years older. Like Conner Larkin. She could easily see what Veronica saw in Leo Damato. He was hot, but to her amazement, she now noticed that Wallace wasn’t just kind of cute, but really sexy. Very athletic too. While that didn’t necessarily attract her to a guy, she had to admit it was – hot.
They sat gazing intently at each other until Mac closed the distance between them. Wallace didn’t pull back, but waited breathlessly for her next move. It was his secret shame that he’d never even been kissed by a girl before. He was hoping she wouldn’t notice, but it would be amazing if she didn’t. What girl didn’t expect the guy to take the initiative, he thought bitterly. His breathing picked up as their lips met and he could feel his heart beating faster. They wriggled closer and held on to each other. It was finally happening. He was filled with a wild exultation. It had seemed like he would be the last guy in school to be kissed. For a while, he’d been hoping Veronica would be the one, but he realized that he definitely didn’t mind. Mac was so – full figured and a great kisser too.
Then suddenly, it all came to an abrupt end. Wallace’s body was sending out alarming signals to him, which clashed violently with a chilling recollection of what had happened only a few months ago. How could he kiss a girl when he’d –
Disconsolately, he pulled back.
Mac’s first impression that he’d cooled off because of lack of experience had to be revised. He looked far to upset for that. Was he trying to stay faithful to Veronica? Surely that wouldn’t leave him so – distressed?
“I’m sorry. I can’t -”
That puzzled her, because she had noticed that he definitely had seemed about to be able to – No question about it. Was this some sort of religious scruples? She hadn’t really intended to go all the way, not even with Wallace, so if that was it, he could set his mind at ease.
“I wasn’t going to – I mean – not all the way. Not on the first date anyway. Besides, I’ve never -”
She was beginning to feel embarrassed. There was no reason to go into details like that anyway.
“I – I want to, but I just can’t.”
“Ok. Never mind.”
Wallace didn’t want her to get the impression that he was rejecting her. What had happened between them was the most fantastic – He could hardly believe his luck, but – it wouldn’t be fair to her. Not that he was infected with anything. At least that was a relief. He just couldn’t believe any girl would want to – After what had happened, he just had to accept the fact that his life had changed forever.
The distraught look on his face, made Mac forget about her own awkwardness and reach out for Wallace again.
“Hey, it’s no big deal. Don’t worry about it.”
Wallace squirmed uncomfortably inside her embrace. Being this close to her, feeling her clean, natural scent, he was torn between wanting to continue where they’d left off – and – running for his life. It would be so tempting to just – but she would hate him if she ever found out later on.
“Mac – there’s something I haven’t told you.”
Suddenly, she was struck by an unwelcome thought. What if Wallace was gay? He didn’t seem that way, but – maybe that was what he was struggling to tell her. She felt really stupid. If she’d just thrown herself at a gay guy, she really was making a fool of herself.
“Ok. Are you gay?”
Wallace felt outraged at the suggestion. How could she even think so when just minutes ago, he’d been about to –
His tone of voice made her recall his physical reaction only moments ago. Wrong idea. She couldn’t help smiling again.
“Ok, maybe not. What’s the problem? Can’t you tell me?”
He sank back against the back of the couch. How could he tell her what was wrong? Right now, she saw him as Veronica’s friend, the basketball ace, and maybe a cute guy, if he was lucky. If he told her, she’d always remember him like that. On his knees – On the other hand, if he didn’t tell her now, she’d just get the impression he’d been playing with her. He didn’t want that. What he’d felt tonight wasn’t just a physical attraction. He found himself desperately wishing they could date, have a relationship.
“It’s so hard. I don’t want you to get this image of me in your head. It’s just that something happened, a couple of months ago and – well, things will never be the same again.”
“When someone sent Veronica those photos? The other one, the one she didn’t show me, that was of you, wasn’t it? What happened? Do you really think it would change the way I feel about you? Unless you were caught raping someone.”
“No. I didn’t – I’d never -”
“Of course not. Whatever it is, you can tell me.”
He knew Veronica could count on her. She’d kept Veronica’s secret and Conner’s too. Maybe – but this was different. He was the one who had these feelings for her now. Did he really want her to know what a pathetic, weak loser he was? But it was too late to worry about that now. He had to tell her something. Might as well be the truth. Somehow, he’d always known it would come to this. As long as his mom never found out or his team mates, he thought he might be able to live with it.
“Remember what happened to Veronica?”
Mac nodded, then her eyes widened in shock. Of course. Wallace had said I didn’t, with the emphasis on I. Meaning he hadn’t been the one to rape anyone, he’d been the victim. She was hoping she was wrong in her sudden insight, but she didn’t think so. That would explain not only why Veronica had removed the second photo without comment, but also why Wallace had seemed so bothered by the whole thing. He hadn’t even lived in Neptune when it happened. At the time, Mac had put it down to his feelings for Veronica. Suddenly, his reaction made sense in another way.
“Is that it? I’m really sorry, Wallace. Was it connected to the other incident?”
He stared at Mac. She really was smart. The way she’d made the connection was impressive, even if Wallace felt a deep sense of shame. Now she knew. Now it began. She’d never see him the same way again. Would she ever feel the urge to kiss him again?
“Yes. They – targeted me because of Veronica’s investigation into Lilly Kane’s murder.”
“That’s terrible. I’m really sorry.”
To his astonishment, she again pulled him into her arms and held him. He thought she probably just felt pity for him, but when the inevitable happened and his body reacted to her, she didn’t pull back. Instead, she kissed him again, more deeply this time. Wallace found himself unable to do the gentlemanly thing and withdraw. For a while, the memory of the attack retreated to the back of his mind. Somehow, it was hard to maintain any coherent thought.
The sound of the dog barking at the door warned them that Veronica or mr Mars was returning, and they guiltily pulled apart. Mac’s smile followed him, as he got up and greeted Veronica. Logan was right behind her. They didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary. It figured. Wallace guessed they’d been up to much the same thing before they returned. He was startled to realize that he no longer resented the rich boy. His own feelings for Veronica had changed. She was still his friend, but now it was the thought of Mac that thrilled and excited him, not Veronica.
Veronica had suggested to Logan that they talk to Weevil about arranging payback against Aaron, but Logan had displayed a total lack of enthusiasm for the idea. He didn’t want Eli to know anything about his situation. After careful consideration, Veronica had agreed it wasn’t such a great idea. Still, deep down, she wished Aaron would one day know the same pain he’d inflicted on his own son. It would serve him right. It occurred to her that Weevil might not have agreed anyway. Leaning on suspects once in a while was one thing, attacking a wealthy celebrity was quite another. Weevil probably wouldn’t want to risk ending up in trouble with the law again.
Then one day, Aaron came looking for Logan at Veronica’s house. For once, only Veronica was there with him. To her surprise, Wallace hadn’t made an appearance for more than a week. She’d been intending to ask him, but somehow, being with Logan every day, had put it out of her mind. Now, suddenly, Aaron Echolls stood on the front steps asking to be let in. Veronica held her dog by the scruff of his neck, wondering if she could hold Aaron back, while Logan made his escape.
Strangely enough, Aaron didn’t seem nearly as insistent as before. The only thing similar to last time was Jake Kane’s presence. If Veronica hadn’t been so worried about Logan, she would have been amused by their bond. Really touching. She wondered what Lynn would have thought about it and she would have smiled, if the situation hadn’t been so grave.
“Veronica, can we come in?”
“Logan doesn’t want to see you.”
“Please. I have to talk to him.”
“No, you don’t. If you don’t leave him alone, I’ll – I have evidence. In a safe place. If you try to get to him, I’ll go to the sheriff and -”
Jake Kane glanced inquiringly at his lover. What evidence? When Aaron had asked him to come along to pick Logan up at Veronica’s place, Jake had assumed that Logan was just acting up, like any other teenager. Veronica’s reaction seemed to hint at something far more sinister. It was as if she – granted, she was a lot like Keith in her stubborn devotion to lost causes – but in this case, she seemed to be determined to guard Logan with her life. It was almost touching. That tiny girl, standing up to two grown men, to protect her friend. Or was Logan her boyfriend now? Well, better him than Duncan.
“Veronica, please. I just want to talk. If you have to, you can stay. You and your dog. Just let me see him.”
“No. I don’t want you anywhere near him.”
Jake Kane glanced around the yard. Someone was bound to take notice. Soon the paparazzi would be arriving in droves. He decided to take charge. Shoving his lover before him, they managed to make Veronica and her dog retreat just a little. He knew they were on shaky ground legally. They could always send for the sheriff and have Logan returned by force, but making their way inside Keith Mars’ home like this placed them in a precarious situation. Still, they’d find Logan and get out again. He was hoping Veronica wouldn’t wish to press charges just because they were standing right inside her front door.
“Ok. Back off. Now. I have photos. If you don’t leave right now, I’ll call the sheriff and – ”
“Veronica, let me talk to Logan.”
“What photos, Aaron?”
During all this exchange Logan had stood behind Veronica’s bedroom door, hoping desperately that his dad would give up and go. He couldn’t hide behind a girl anymore. If his dad got mad again, there was no telling what he’d do. Naturally, Jake Kane would back him up too. He had no choice. No matter how much he hated to face his dad again, he had to. After all Veronica had done for him, he couldn’t let her down.
“Ok, what do you want, dad?”
“Just talk to you, Logan. I swear that’s all.”
“I don’t believe anything you say anymore. Last time, you told me everything would be different. Look what happened. I thought you meant different better, not different worse.”
“I’m sorry, Logan. You just provoke me so. I love you. It’s just that when you – ”
“I’m not coming with you this time, so you can just leave again.”
“Would someone please tell me what’s going on?”
Jake Kane eyed his lover suspiciously. He’d just recalled that last time they’d come for Logan, the boy had said something about Aaron beating him. Was that what had happened this time? The cast on Logan’s arm – was that Aaron’s doing? Now that Jake looked more closely, he saw that the boy’s face was covered in fading bruises.
Veronica made eye contact with Jake Kane.
“I can show you the photos. Your – friend – really did it this time. He broke Logan’s arm, and several ribs and you can see his face for yourself.”
“Aaron? Did you do that to Logan?”
“He – just provokes me so. I don’t mean to hurt him. It’s just that – he’s so difficult. I guess Duncan’s a lot easier to handle.”
“They’re kids, Aaron. Of course they’re difficult. I can’t believe you’d do that to your own son. That’s just – I can’t see you anymore.”
Jake backed out and closed the door behind him, leaving Aaron standing alone, crestfallen.
To Logan’s astonishment, he saw tears in his father’s eyes. He knew his father was an actor, but somehow, this reaction stunned him.
“Forgive me, Logan. I love you.”
“You have a funny way of showing it.”
Veronica couldn’t help commenting. Aaron’s reaction sickened her. He was crying? What reason did he have to cry? If she’d managed to get Weevil to attack him, then he’d have something to cry about.
To Logan’s surprise, his dad didn’t even seem to have heard Veronica. Logan felt strangely detached from the whole situation. It was as if it concerned two strangers, not himself and his father.
“I’m not coming back this time. You have Trina. Leave me alone.”
“If you love me, you’ll let me stay here. I won’t get in your face if I’m here.”
Aaron stared at him for so long, Veronica wanted to shout at him to get out, but eventually, he got a grip on himself.
“Ok. That’s probably best. For now. I’ll – talk to Keith about arranging things. If he’s willing to have you here, I’ll transfer enough money to cover your expenses here.”
Logan opened his mouth to protest, but closed it again. How could Veronica and her dad afford another mouth to feed? Besides, why shouldn’t his dad pay? That was his duty. As long as he stayed away,
“Logan – I’ll get therapy. Anything. Just don’t hate me. Please. I know it’s wrong. I just wanted to bring you up to be a good person.”
“You mean someone who beats the crap out of his son?”
A look of pain flew across Aaron’s face.
“It didn’t turn out the way I intended. You have every right to be angry with me. I just hope that one day, you’ll manage to forgive me.”
“Don’t count on it.”
“Veronica, do you think your dad will let Logan stay here?”
“Yes. I’ll talk to him.”
“What did you tell him?”
“Don’t worry about it, dad. I’ve covered for you, the way I always have.”
“I appreciate that, Logan. We can work this out. I’ll do anything.”
Aaron raised his hand, as if he wanted to touch Logan’s face, then appeared to reconsider. Lamely, he let his hand fall back down by his side.
“I’ll call Keith and set things up. Please, let me talk to you again, later. On the phone, if you prefer that. Just – Ok. I’ll go. I’ll have your things sent round. Some of them anyway. Make a list and I’ll have them sent here.”
Logan watched his dad leave, in silence, his face so white, Veronica was afraid he’d faint. She put her arm around him and steered him towards the couch.
“It’s ok. He’s gone. That went better than I thought.”
“What? Oh, yes. Jake leaving like that must have really shaken him up.”
“I’m the last person to say this, but I think he was more upset about what he’d done to you. Think about it. With all the lovers he’s had, do you really think Jake’s any different than all the others?”
“Yeah, he’s a lot less attractive, but otherwise, I don’t know.”
“No, but anyway, I think your dad’s really shaken by what he’s done. Look at the way he agreed to let you stay here. I think he realizes that if you stay under the same roof, it will happen again, and he doesn’t want that. This is better.”
“Whatever. As long as I never have to see him again.”
“You don’t have to. Ok, dad said he’d be home by five today, so he’ll be here any time now. I’ll talk to him and I guess Aaron will call him too.”
“Yeah. I don’t buy that talk about therapy. I’ll never trust him again.”
“You don’t have to. I’ll make sure you don’t have to live with him again.”
“Thanks, Veronica. You’ve been absolutely fantastic. The way you stood up to him -”
“I wasn’t going to let him lay a hand on you again.”
The tension left him and he pulled Veronica closer, hampered by the cast, but not incapacitated. They managed to cram a lot of kisses into the five minutes remaining until mr Mars returned. Fortunately, they were warned of his arrival by the dog. Veronica braced herself to tackle her dad.
However, it turned out he had already been informed by Aaron Echolls. For some reason, Aaron was going to let his son stay at their place for as long as he liked. There was definitely something behind this, but knowing how much Veronica cared about Logan, Keith hadn’t felt he could refuse. Besides, he’d felt sorry for the boy, after he’d seen in what shape he was in.
“Logan, your dad tells me you want to stay here with us.”
“Yes, sir. It would be very kind of you if -”
“Keith. My name is Keith. You know me. Logan, if there was a problem of some kind, you’d tell me, wouldn’t you? No matter what it was. Like I said, you know me. If I have to, I’ll go after anyone, and I mean anyone.”
“There’s no problem. I just don’t get along with my dad.”
“I see. Well, like I told your dad just now, you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. As long as you’re prepared to live in a style you’re not accustomed to.”
“This is fine. It’s much more of a home than dad’s place.”
“It’s nice of you to say so. Well, I have work to do, so you do your homework or whatever it is you do in the afternoon. Your dad said he’d have your stuff delivered as soon as possible, Logan.”
“I’ll make dinner for you, dad.”
“That’s great, sweetie. When you have a minute, I have a case I’d like to discuss with you. Maybe you and Logan could go on a stakeout together.”
“Ok. No problem. If Logan – ”
“Yes, I’d love to. Sounds exciting.”
“Good. Then I’ll let you know when the time comes.”
Logan smiled. He’d been in Veronica’s house for just over a week, and he was already feeling at home. It was as if Veronica’s family had become his, in just that short time. He didn’t know what he’d done without Veronica. She’d saved his life. Literally. Or close enough. Staying here made him feel safe for the first time in years. But he didn’t make the mistake of letting down his guard. Sooner or later, his dad would want him back. That would be when the real trouble began.