|Primary Characters:||Veronica, Logan, Keith, Trina|
|Warning:||violence, sexual abuse of minor, incest, m/m sex, non con sex|
|Description:||Aaron Echolls wants Logan back. Soon there’s trouble again, worse than ever. Weevil finds Logan on the bridge where his mother was last seen, about to jump. Even if Weevil can save Logan’s life, what can be done to keep him away from his dad?|
After Wallace and Mac got involved with each other, they didn’t go over to Veronica’s place anymore. Instead, they would sit in Mac’s room, gazing at the computer screens, but really just holding hands. From time to time, they’d face each other and spend as much time gazing into each other’s eyes. When the house was quiet, and they felt they had some peace, they’d kiss.
Veronica didn’t notice anything odd about their absence. She was too busy trying to keep a concerned eye on Logan. His injuries were beginning to heal, but she had a feeling that emotionally, he was still in as much pain as before. It really hurt to see him like that and for several weeks, Veronica neglected her some time date, Deputy Leo Damato. Her feelings for Logan were too confusing to put into words, or even to dwell on too deeply. At the moment, she chose to focus on taking care of him, not getting deeper into a relationship she wasn’t sure about.
Logan couldn’t allow himself the luxury of relaxing. He knew deep down that sooner or later, he’d be forced to return to his father’s house and what would happen then, he was too scared to even contemplate. His only consolation was Veronica. At first he’d taken his feelings for her as a sort of panic reaction to the abuse. Now he wasn’t so sure anymore. Looking back, there had always been something about her, which he had tried hard not to notice, because she was his friend Duncan’s girlfriend. Since their breakup, he’d been too bitter and resentful to want to consider her even a friend, much less a potential girlfriend. The shock and terror of being so badly beaten he feared for his life, had made him forget his anger towards Veronica and more or less also his feelings for Lilly.
Lilly was not coming back, and he’d forced himself to face the fact that his mother wasn’t going to either. All he had left was his dad and his sister who didn’t love him – or Veronica. There was Duncan too, but lately they’d seemed to drift apart. It wasn’t the embarrassment of realizing what had been going on between their fathers. Logan was hoping he wasn’t such a coward he’d blame Duncan for that. It was just that after what had happened to him, he didn’t feel as close to Duncan anymore. How could Duncan understand what he was going through? Duncan didn’t even know about the last and worst time his dad had beaten him. They hadn’t really talked to each other since then. Perhaps one day he might be able to, but not now.
It was easy to be lulled into a false sense of security, no matter how much he tried not to let down his guard. Especially the fact that Veronica was sleeping so close to him every night, helped distract him and blind him to the imminent risk of his father getting tired of having him stay at the former sheriff’s house.
He knew it must be eating at his father. The humiliation of having been bested by a girl and a failed sheriff, two people with absolutely no influence or wealth and no talent either. Logan knew that had to be the way his father was thinking. Personally, he’d always privately admired the Mars family’s courage. At least father and daughter. Lately, Veronica had been extremely taciturn about her mother.
He respected that. Didn’t he know how hard it was to lose a mother? Of course he could relate to that, even if he didn’t think Veronica’s mother was dead.
It was kind of fun to go with Veronica to school. Arriving every day, sitting in her car, made him feel different somehow, as if he’d made a complete break with his past. Obviously, Duncan had noticed, just like everyone else he knew, but he hadn’t bothered explaining They could draw their own conclusions.
Each time he overslept or got a D on a test, he kept expecting some kind of outburst from Keith Mars, but he came to realize that Keith trusted his daughter and only got involved if he felt there was a problem. It seemed he was willing to treat his guest the same way. Logan had never seen such trust and love between a parent and a child.
One afternoon, he and Veronica left on a stakeout. That was another thing that had amazed him when he first came to live with the Mars family. Keith Mars let Veronica do some real work. Of course, Logan had hired Veronica to help him with different problems in the past, but he’d always assumed she had just picked up a little from her dad. Now he realized that father and daughter were almost equal partners. The only difference was that Veronica was expected to do her homework, and couldn’t take on the same workload her father did.
They’d had quite a bit of fun, especially when the guy they were watching passed their car, and they had to start kissing to show they were just an innocent young couple in search of some privacy. He was glad to have been able to help. Perhaps not entirely because of the stakeout, but he tried to let Veronica think that was it.
By nightfall, they returned to Veronica’s house, babbling about the case, and how they were sure they’d solved it, laughing and stopping to recount something from the night’s work. It felt great being a part of that. Logan was hoping Veronica considered him an asset in her work and didn’t just let him tag along because she was worried about him.
As soon as they walked in, they noticed something was wrong and sobered up instantly. The happy mood from seconds before dissipated when they saw the grave look on Keith’s face.
Veronica felt a cold hand clutch her heart. What if that creep Clarence Wiedman had gotten to her somehow?
“What’s wrong, dad? Is it something to do with mom?”
“No. It’s nothing like that. Logan – ”
Now it was Logan’s turn to feel his heart painfully squeezed by anxiety. He’d known all along it was too good to be true. For some reason, it never occurred to him that his mother’s body could have been found. In his mind there was never any doubt this was the time his dad chose to force him back home again.
“Logan, I’m sorry. Aaron has sent the sheriff here to pick you up. I had to tell him you were out, but he said he’d be back tonight, to get you. There was nothing I could do. You know he’s your legal guardian.”
“I know. Thanks for letting me stay here for so long.”
While he was talking, Logan’s mind leapt ahead, making plans. He’d pretend to go along, but he’d find a way of escaping and he’d – except where would he go? He’d tried to make his grandparents take him, but they would never do anything against his father’s will. They probably couldn’t anyway, and frankly, he suspected his grandfather didn’t want him there. Neither his grandfather or his grandmother had ever liked Lynn. After his dad’s divorce from Trina’s mom, they’d sided with her, not Lynn. Lynn’s parents lived so far away, and anyway they were both divorced too, with new families and no room for him in their lives.
Keith watched Logan attentively. Ever since Logan had come to stay with them, with a broken arm, a squashed nose and several cracked ribs, he’d had a bad feeling the boy was in trouble. He’d tried to sound him out a couple of times, but each time, Logan had assured him nothing was wrong. Sensing the boy’s distress, Keith decided try one more time.
“Logan, I know I’ve asked you this before, but – is there something wrong? If you’re in some kind of trouble, I hope you know you can trust me to help you in any way that I can.”
That was the problem. Sure he trusted Keith, but what could he do? He was a private investigator barely making ends meet, raising his daughter on his own. If he tried to take on Aaron Echolls right after his brush with the Kanes, there was no way he could win. It wasn’t fair to lay all that on Keith and Veronica.
Logan tried to put as much sincerity into his voice as possible, and he forced himself to stare openly into Keith Mars’ eyes, as if he had nothing to hide.
“I appreciate that, sir, I mean Keith, but there’s nothing wrong. I’ll be fine. It’s a bit hard to get along with dad, especially now – but it’s ok. You’ve done so much already.”
“If you’re sure. I wish I could have let you stay longer. You know that as far as I’m concerned, you’re always welcome here. I think Veronica agrees.”
Veronica was too worried to pay much attention, but when she heard her name being mentioned, she faced her dad and smiled.
It didn’t occur to Keith that she should have been facing Logan, not him, until later. By that time, they were too busy helping Logan pack.
Veronica’s mind raced, as she tried to think of a solution that would allow Logan to stay with her, but she knew that Aaron was within his rights. As long as Logan wouldn’t testify against his dad, there was nothing anyone could do. It felt so frustrating, being forced to stand by while Logan walked right into a trap, again. What if this time, there would be nothing to stop Aaron from going too far? Veronica had given up any hope she’d ever had of Trina helping.
It wasn’t long before there was a heavy pounding on the door. Veronica knew the new sheriff wouldn’t waste the opportunity of bullying her dad. Not that anyone by the name of Mars was easily bullied. One day soon – but right now, she had to worry about Logan, not her own family’s situation.
Keith opened the door and let the sheriff in.
“Is the boy here now?”
“He’s packing his things.”
“He’d better get a move on. I don’t have all night.”
“Veronica, would you go and help Logan?”
Keith was hoping his daughter would be able to cheer Logan up a little. The boy’s face had looked so grim, Keith still felt something was on his mind. It could be any number of things, so it was impossible to guess what it was. He decided to ask Veronica again, later. If she had a clue, they might still be able to help Logan.
Veronica closed the door behind her and stood watching Logan as he threw his things into the two bags. His face was so tense, Veronica winced. She walked over and helped him fold his clothes into a semblance of order. Finally, Logan appeared to give up. She walked around the bed and put her arms around him. He really was tense all over.
“Hey, take it easy. Call me every night. Tell me if he – loses his temper again. I’ll be there right away. This time, he won’t get away with it.”
“Logan. Look at me. It’s going to be ok. I’ll think of something. By the way, won’t you reconsider about me recording your statement?”
“There’s no point. I’ll never testify against him. Don’t you see that I can’t?”
“Why can’t you? You’re only protecting him. He doesn’t deserve it.”
“I know he doesn’t, but I just can’t. If everyone knew -”
“Yeah. If everyone knew, he couldn’t get away with it anymore. Please.”
“Ok. This isn’t over, you know. I’ll fix it somehow, I swear.”
“I appreciate that. Really. But how could you win against him? It’s hopeless. I’ll just have to try and stay out of his face. Toe the line. I can do that. I’ve been doing it most of my life.”
Veronica bit her lip. That was exactly what she didn’t want him to have to do. They both knew that would never be enough. Aaron was out of control. Whatever had made him this brutal, it wasn’t going to just go away. She pulled Logan even closer and tried her best to share some of her courage, willing him not to give up.
An impatient shout from outside called her back to reality. It was time for Logan to go.
As she watched the sheriff’s car drive away, she had to blink away a few tears. This was a nightmare. No one in this town was ever on the victim’s side. The important families always won. Neptune was too proud of its celebrities and its wealth.
Keith put his arm around his daughter’s shoulders and led her inside. He firmly shut the door behind them and locked it. Knowing he hadn’t had any choice but to surrender the boy hadn’t made it any more tolerable.
“Veronica, if you know anything about what’s wrong, tell me. If I don’t know what’s going on, I can’t help.”
Veronica hesitated. She wanted to tell her dad. If anyone could help, it was him. The only thing keeping her from spilling everything was the thought of what had happened when her dad had dared to accuse Jake Kane of his daughter’s murder. If he took on Aaron Echolls, the same thing would happen, and this time, they’d be forced to leave. She couldn’t do that to him. This was something she had to take care of on her own.
“I don’t know anything. Logan can be very quiet.”
“So you think there’s something wrong, too?”
“I don’t know. I hope not.
She hated having to lie to her dad, but the alternative was worse. Now all she could do was keep staring candidly at her father, hoping he’d be taken in.
After studying his daughter intently for a while, Keith gave up. Maybe she really didn’t know anything. If they were lucky, there was nothing to find out, but he didn’t think so. There was something about that boy that made him worry. He’d just have to wait and see. Perhaps he’d find out some day. He was only hoping whatever it was wouldn’t be too serious.
This time, Logan didn’t dare to confront his dad. When he was escorted inside the front door, he just kept his head low and walked up the stairs, staring down at his feet. He could hear his dad talking to the sheriff, thanking him. A hard knot was forming at the pit of his stomach and once he’d put the bags down, he clenched his fists and sat down on the side of his bed. He knew it was only a matter of time before his dad would be up.
The door slammed shut downstairs, and only seconds later, it seemed to him, he could hear the echoes of his father’s footfalls on the staircase. Logan had left his door open, knowing there was no point closing it.
“I missed you. I hope you can understand that.”
Whatever his dad wanted, he’d get. The last time, Logan had finally learned never to answer back. If he was meek enough, maybe tonight would be ok.
“Logan, I love you. Your place is here, with me.”
Aaron stood over his son, gazing hard into his eyes. Those eyes, they were so much like Lynn’s. His own eyes misted over and he kneeled in front of the bed and put his arms around Logan. He was so intent on his own grief and loss, he hardly noticed how his son tensed up.
Logan held his breath for as long as he could, until finally, his head was swimming.
“Are we ok now?”
“Yes. Of course.”
His voice was so toneless, Logan was afraid his dad would take offense. It was always hard to guess what would set him off. Except, this time, apparently, what he had to offer was enough. After a while, Aaron let go and after getting up, he remained standing, watching his son for a while longer, until he appeared to have enough and he turned and walked out again.
Logan had to blink to clear his sight. It was over, for now anyway. Tomorrow there would be school again, so he had to make sure he was up on time. If Aaron was at home, he’d check to see that he made it in time for the first class.
He was looking forward to going, because at least it got him out of his dad’s way. One whole day without the old man. At least he wasn’t expected to be back right away. He could go where he pleased as long as he was back before his dad’s imposed curfew.
His dad’s driver was waiting outside to take him to school. Logan was wondering what had happened to his own car, or if this was simply part of some punishment he didn’t even know he’d earned. The driver had nothing to say and Logan knew better than to argue, so he got in and let himself be driven to school. At Neptune High, no one raised any eyebrows at chaffeur driven cars or limousines delivering kids to school.
As soon as the driver had driven off, Veronica was there, anxiously looking him over. Logan felt torn. On the one hand, it was gratifying that she cared so much, but on another level, it was humiliating that a girl, half his size, was making herself responsible for his protection. For once, he wished he could do something for her. In fact, he wished he could have helped her already. If only he and Duncan had arrived a little earlier that night at the party – but he knew far too well what those men had been capable of. He was only deluding himself.
“Hey, are you ok?”
“Yes. I’m fine. He was just all teary eyed and wanted me to understand how much he loves me.”
“Oh. That went well.”
To his relief, Veronica didn’t follow him inside. He made his own way to his locker and met Duncan there. Trying to put on a brave face, he nodded briefly to his friend.
“Hey, man. I heard you were back home.”
Logan shrugged. What could he tell Duncan about that?
“My dad wanted me back, end of story.”
“Oh. So you’re still not talking?”
“You know how he is.”
Except he didn’t think Duncan knew at all. Despite everything, his dad must never have hurt him. How could Duncan possibly understand what he was going through?
“Yes. Did you notice – ”
Duncan looked furtively around, and didn’t continue until he was sure no one could overhear. He lowered his voice so Logan could barely catch what he was saying. Not that he was in any mood to really care.
“They’re not seeing each other anymore. I asked dad about it, and he said that was right. He didn’t elaborate and of course, I didn’t insist.”
“Yeah, I know. Great.”
“It’s fantastic. I guess it was just some – weird phase they were going through. That’s funny. You know how they’re always saying we’re going through some phase or other, and now it was them.”
“Yeah, really funny.”
Duncan stared at his friend. He didn’t know what to make of Logan’s tone. It was without expression, as if he was only half paying attention.
“Are you ok?”
“What? Oh, sure.”
“Ok. Shall we go?”
Again, Duncan cast a wondering look at his friend. There was definitely something going on there. He’d been wondering what Logan’s moving in with Veronica had been all about. Somehow, despite everything, he still felt a stab of misery, as he recalled that it was over between them and no use trying to get back with her.
A couple of weeks went by and though Logan never dared to let down his guard, he had to admit that maybe his dad had changed a little. There hadn’t even been any close calls. Aaron seemed to be walking on eggshells. He was tense and overly emotional, keeping himself in check at all times. Logan had the impression he was really trying. That didn’t mean he had any real hopes that it would be ok. Sooner or later, the beast would return and what if this time, nothing would happen at the last minute to save him? Day after day, his skin kept tingling and he felt the metallic taste of fear on his tongue. Swallowing hard, he tried to ignore his own misgivings and focus on getting through each day and night, without attracting his dad’s attention.
Veronica tried to think of other solutions to the problem, but for the time being, she had to admit she was stumped. Legal methods didn’t get her very far, alternative methods – the same. Short of actually hiring a killer to take Aaron out, she could think of nothing that would prove a long-term solution. Worrying about Logan was beginning to wear her down, and her dad felt guilty for sending her out on any more stakeouts. He put her reaction down to a growing workload in school. Veronica didn’t bother setting her dad straight. If she couldn’t explain why she was worrying, it was no use telling him about it at all.
Adding to Logan’s tension was the fact that Trina seemed to have moved in, more or less permanently. She wasn’t in during the days and many times she stayed out until very late. Some nights she spent with Conner. Even so, her presence got on Logan’s nerves. She might not be picking fights with him, but she walked around as if she was some kind of princess and everything she did was intended to catch their father’s attention. If Logan had been more fond of his sister, he might have felt sorry for her. Their dad just went about his own business, ignoring Trina and trying too hard to get along with Logan. That only added to Trina’s dislike of her younger brother.
Her jealousy had always been a problem, but when Logan had been younger, he’d felt sorry for her and done his best to be nice to her. That hadn’t gotten him anywhere, and anyway, it had been quite a few years since he’d even tried to get along with her.
The nervous tension got to Logan so badly, he failed more tests than usual, even if he worked harder than ever before. One afternoon, his algebra teacher called his dad. Mrs Symonds was always very brusque and told everyone her opinion without sugar coating it, and Logan could even hear her voice echoing in their lounge, though his dad held the receiver pressed to his ear.
“I see. Thank you for telling me, mrs Symonds. I’ll deal with it. Logan will not fail this year. Yes. Thank you. I appreciate that. Yes, I’ll see what I can do. Very kind of you to say so. I’ll send you a couple of tickets. Bring a friend. You’re too kind. Thanks again.”
His ingratiating tone changed abruptly when he hung up the receiver. Logan could feel himself shrinking inside. He’d come home early for once, to pick up a few things to bring to Duncan’s place, but now he was beginning to wish he’d just followed Duncan home instead. His dad’s eyes lost all warmth they’d held just a second ago, as he was charming the old hag on the phone. It was funny, but his dad never passed up on a chance to promote himself. He never took a rest from working, even when he wasn’t shooting anything.
“Logan. Upstairs now.”
“Dad – I’m sorry about that. I’ll take some remedial course and -”
“Yes, you will, but now I’m going to give you a little incentive to work harder. What were you thinking?”
The last few words came out more as a hiss, spat out between tightly clenched teeth. A couple of months ago, Logan would have put on the same expression and taken the punishment without making a sound. That was before the night when he’d realized his dad was completely out of control. Nothing inside him was ready to hit the brakes before bones were broken. It had happened before, but Logan had been younger then and possibly more fragile. He was ashamed to realize that his knees were shaking and he could feel his palms go clammy.
“No, you’re not. Not nearly as sorry as you will be. Come on.”
Filled with a feeling of inevitability, Logan walked ahead of his dad up the stairs. He thought he could distantly hear a song playing somewhere, but after a while, he became convinced that it was only inside his own head. Or maybe it was the gardener or the pool guy, listening to the radio. In any case, no one could help him. Either the hired help were both blind and deaf, or – and this was Logan’s guess – they were paid enough to mimic those ridiculous monkeys. His grandfather had a set of them on his desk. Of course, it was always possible that they were only waiting for a good enough offer from David Letterman or Jay Leno, to appear on their shows and tell all.
Logan was surprised to feel his mind working as comparatively well as it was. He was wondering if maybe the ‘tell all’ would involve the afternoon Aaron Echolls killed his no good son. In that case, he’d probably end up making some pennyless employee rich, from beyond the grave. He thought he could taste blood, but after some consideration, he realized that it was merely fear. The taste of blood would come later, if there would be a later.
Logan stood outside his own room, waiting for his dad’s next order. It was nearly always the same. He’d pick a belt or cane or something, then his dad would carry out the punishment, inside his own study, a few doors away.
He hadn’t counted on his father’s temper. Today, apparently, it was worse than usual. Maybe his agent had called and pissed him off, or maybe he’d just waited for an opportunity to let off steam. In any case, he didn’t say anything. He just raised his hand and hit Logan across the face, so hard, Logan reeled backwards, and hit his own door. It was closed, otherwise he knew he’d have fallen on to his back.
Ending up on the floor this early on, wasn’t good news. He was glad the door had held, even though it had creaked ominously. His father didn’t wait. Instead, he followed up with more hard blows, aiming more or less anywhere. Face, chest, arms, abdomen. Logan knew his nose was bleeding already and when his father’s fist slammed into his abdomen, he doubled over, coughing and retching.
Aaron grabbed his arms and tried to hold him up.
“Look at me, you little shit. Hold your head up.”
Logan tried, but he could feel himself sagging again. Again, Aaron’s fists smashed into him, then, when he began to fall down again, Aaron aimed a kick at his hip, which had him crying out in pain, for once. The sound seemed to egg Aaron on. He grabbed Logan’s upper arms and smashed him into the wall beside the door to his room.
“You little punk, I’ll show you. Shaming me at school. Getting bad grades. Do you think I’m a fool?”
Logan knew better than to reply. Not replying got his father madder, but whatever he said made things worse, so he knew from experience that his only option was to keep quiet and take it. Only this time, he had a worse feeling about the whole thing, than before. Aaron was somehow – more aggressive, more violent.
Now he couldn’t stay up on his own, and was lying on the floor, trying to protect his face and abdomen. Aaron grabbed a crystal vase from a pedestal and raised it above his son’s head, about to smash it down. Through a red haze, Logan saw the big, heavy object and tried to roll away. It missed his head, but hit his shoulder, with a resounding crash. It broke and cut his skin, but at least it hadn’t smashed his head in.
He could see his father looking around for something else to hit him with and Logan felt a shortness of breath that was only partly due to the beating he’d taken. Sooner or later, his dad would find something heavy enough, sharp enough or big enough to bash his brains in. Or – Though his head was spinning, he tried to think of a way to avoid the inevitable, which he felt was only moments away.
When Aaron reached for him and dragged him to his feet again, Logan recalled something that just might hold his dad off. It was the last thing he wanted to do, but he also knew, this could be his last few moments of life. He sobbed quietly, as he thought of what fear would do to you, how it made you lose all dignity.
On a level with Aaron’s face now, he drew in breath for one last desperate attempt to ward off the blow that was already imminent. Aaron’s fist was raised again, ready to smash into his son’s face. Logan swallowed and licked his cut lips. Using his last ounce of strength, he closed the distance between his lips and his dad’s. Closing his eyes, he tried to think of how it had felt to kiss Lilly or Veronica, but failed utterly. He pulled away slightly, and trying to mimic his mother’s smile, he whispered his dad’s name.
He kept his eyes downcast, waiting for the next blow. If this didn’t work, his dad would definitely kill him. For a while, nothing happened. Eventually, Logan dared to look up. The look on his dad’s face scared him even more. Again, his dad raised his hand in the air, but this time, he didn’t make a fist. His fingers gently brushed Logan’s bruised and bloody face.
Thick with emotion, Aaron’s voice had lost all trace of anger.
“You have no idea how much I love you.”
Aaron’s mouth reached for Logan’s again and this time, Logan had to clench his own fists, when he felt the tongue slip across his lips. It was all he could do, to remain standing, with help, and to return the kiss, and fake an enthusiasm he didn’t feel. His knees were trembling and unless Aaron had held him up, he knew he would have slipped to the floor.
He felt himself being dragged along towards his father’s bedroom and once inside, his dad lay him down on the bed. Logan had to press his fingernails into the palms of his hands to stop himself from whimpering. He wanted to shout no, but he knew this was his only chance of staying alive and he kept quiet.
Aaron began to remove his own garments, then his son’s, tossing them carelessly to the floor. He stretched out beside Logan on the bed and once again, kissed him. Deepening the kiss, he let his hands trail down his son’s chest. Every inch of skin he touched, tingled with pain.
The shallow breaths Logan could take, rasped in his own ears, but apparently made no impression on Aaron. Logan tried not to listen to his father’s husky whispers as he fondled his chest.
“So beautiful. Just like her.”
Again, Logan had to swallow hard to keep the bile from rising in his throat. She? His mom? Telling himself that this wouldn’t have happened if she’d been still alive didn’t help much. Deep down, he knew that his mom would never have bothered to find out if anything was wrong. Either she’d been aware of the beatings for a long time and hadn’t cared, or she hadn’t been attentive enough to even find out. In any case, she would never have done a thing to help him. The only person who had ever tried was Veronica and she couldn’t do anything for him now.
Suddenly, he thought he could hear a woman’s high heels pattering on the floor outside. The door was flung open and he could hear someone – a female – screeching. For a confused second, he imagined it really was his mother, then, recalling that she’d never be back, he thought it was Veronica, who had somehow come at last. But the voice screeching wasn’t Veronica’s. He now recognized it as that of his sister Trina.
“You little pervert. Leave dad alone. Stop, you disgusting little creep. How could you? He’s your dad!”
At last, Trina’s words cut through Aaron’s drunk and stoned rage and he rolled off his son’s unmoving body. Despite everything, he knew he couldn’t continue having sex with his son while his daughter was watching. Part of his brain began working again and the fear of new mortifying headlines advertising his personal life, made him blindly fumble for something to cover himself with.
This was Logan’s chance. Desperately, he slid off the bed and though his right leg gave way beneath him he got up again, and under Trina’s gaze filled with smouldering hate, he managed to limp outside and to his own room. Somehow he found something to put on. He never knew how he got down the stairs, but when some of the worst pain lifted momentarily, he was standing in the hallway downstairs. The front door was unlocked and he was through it and outside in the driveway without anyone trying to stop him.
His dad’s car was standing outside the garage, the key in the ignition. All he had to do was get inside and start it up. He never thought of the gates, until he was already there, but the guards recognized the car and opened them, with seconds to spare. They were used to his dad’s reckless driving and would probably not suspect anything out of the ordinary. Too bad if they did. It was too late anyway. He was out. Now all he had to do was figure out a way never to have to see his dad again. Or anyone else for that matter.
Upstairs, Trina was through screaming and marched off to her own room, where she packed all the stuff she wanted to bring, including plenty of Lynn’s clothes and jewelry, and before her dad came to check on her, as if he would, she was storming down the stairs and outside. The only car she could find was Logan’s, so she got into that and drove off. Fortunately, the gates were still open, so she managed to slip out just fine.
She was sure Conner would be happy to see her. If she thought of the right way to ask, she was sure he’d manage to talk his producers into writing her into the show. Yes, at least that would be some consolation. After what she’d seen today, she had to be the unluckiest girl in the world. Just her luck to have a perverted younger brother and a dad who liked to jump anything with a pulse. Now she was glad she’d never got that Persian cat.
Some miles away, Logan crashed into a lamppost. The car was a total writeoff, but somehow, he was more or less intact when he crawled out of the wreck. This would really get his father mad, but now it was too late for him to touch him. If only he could think of a way to make it all right again. While he was thinking, he kept walking. At times, his leg or his ankle would give out under him and he’d have to pull himself up, but the pain was tolerable by now and it wasn’t that far to go.
There. The exact spot his mother had used. She’d left her car there, but he didn’t have anything other than the clothes he was wearing. Cars hooted at him, and one car only narrowly missed him as he crossed the lane and reached the railing. Biting his lips against the sudden pain he bent over to squeeze between the bars. Only this morning, he could have climbed across. Finally, he was sitting on the edge, his legs dangling over the side.
Trina had seen them. She’d jumped to the conclusion that he was responsible. Who would think otherwise? Not that he’d be able to face them even if they realized the reasons for his shame. For a second, he thought of Veronica – but what girl would want to date a guy who had done what he had? From the moment Trina walked in, he’d finally seen clearly. He should have let Aaron kill him. At least then, he’d have died with dignity. Trina was right. He was a creep. A pervert. Any normal guy would much rather have died than –
He didn’t notice the tears streaming down his face, mixing with the blood and – Just a few more minutes now and he’d find the strength to get up and join his mom. He didn’t have any illusions she’d be waiting for him, but anything was better than feeling the way he was.
Weevil had been driving his bike along the bridge, his mind on a new lucrative sideline he’d stumbled across the other day. How wonderfully simple and foolproof. The cops would never get a line on this. A wide grin was playing on his lips, when he suddenly caught sight of a familiar figure. Weevil frowned. No one was supposed to be walking in this bridge. Besides, the guy was outside the railing, sitting with his legs over the side. That could only mean trouble, one way or another.
Logan Echolls wasn’t exactly a friend, but Weevil had some respect for the guy, despite everything. Besides, he was also a friend – or possibly a little more – of a friend. Weevil couldn’t guess what Veronica saw in Logan, but that wasn’t his problem. He suspected Veronica would feel the same way about at least half his girlfriends.
Once he reached the end of the bridge, Weevil turned off and shut down his bike. He pulled out the cell phone and called Veronica. She’d want to know this.
“Hi. It’s me. Listen, can you make it to the bridge, asap? It’s kind of an emergency. Your – friend – Logan Echolls is there. Trust me. You’ll want to be here.”
He ended the call and put away his phone, then locked his bike. People knew him. No one would dare to touch his bike, but it never hurt to be careful. Cautiously, he began to walk along the edge of the bridge, inside the railing, but close to it. He was hoping no one would call the cops just because a guy like him was walking on the bridge. It would be just typical that no one bothered when it was someone like Logan Echolls, but a guy like him always attracted negative attention. Another of life’s little injustices.
As he got closer, he walked as quietly as he could and stopped a safe distance away. Not that Logan seemed to be paying attention to anyone but himself. Even judging by what little Weevil could see of him, he must have been in a fight and was in a state of shock as a result. What a wimp. Weevil never got that pale, even when his cheek was split open, last summer, in a fight with another gang.
Shakily, Logan got to his feet. It was time. Sooner or later, someone was going to call the cops and he couldn’t allow himself to be taken. This time, he’d make sure there was no next time.
At first, Weevil thought Logan had heard his approach, despite everything, but since the guy didn’t turn around, he realized he was most likely wrong. Now what? Clearly, the guy was about to jump. If Veronica didn’t get here any second now, it would be too late – or – one of the guy’s worst enemies would have to try and stop him. Nice choice. Weevil could already imagine the expression in Veronica’s eyes when he told her the guy she was so fond of, one way or another, had jumped off the same bridge his mother had. Or – he could imagine how Logan’s eyes would look as he stopped him from doing what he’d apparently got his heart set on doing.
Weevil grinned to himself. Tough. Did he think other people always got their way? If he had to make a choice, he’d disappoint Logan any day, rather than Veronica Mars. She was a lot cooler than most of the other girls at school.
To his relief, Veronica’s car ground to a halt somewhere on the opposite side from where he’d left his bike. She came running towards him and as she got close enough to see his face, he put a finger to his lips.
More quietly now, she walked closer, still as fast as she could. Unlike Weevil’s boots, her shoes echoed enough on the tarmac to alert Logan to her approach.
Weevil could see that Veronica’s face was stiff and white, just like Logan’s underneath the blood.
“Logan, listen to me. Please, don’t do anything -”
“No, you listen. Back off. Now. You can’t stop me. Just turn around and walk out of here.”
“Logan, don’t. Whatever is wrong, we’ll work it out, but don’t do this to me, please.”
“I am doing this for you. Not being around you anymore, is doing you a favor. Trust me. You don’t know -”
“No, I don’t, but tell me. Please, tell me, and I’ll do anything to -”
“Anything? It’s too late for that, Veronica.”
Logan inched closer to the edge and Weevil could hear Veronica draw in breath. He had to hand it to her, she really took even something like this well. Most girls would be in hysterics by now. Weevil realized that it was time for him to make up his mind. Was he going to do the heroic thing and stop an obnoxious upperclass brat like Logan Echolls from jumping off a bridge – or was he going to disappoint Veronica Mars? Put like that, the choice was easy. Silently, Weevil sneaked up on Logan, one step at a time. Fortunately, Veronica kept talking, holding Logan’s attention.
“No. Don’t do it. I love you, Logan. Please don’t -”
“I love you too, Veronica. That’s why I’m doing this.”
Yes. Weevil had managed to get close enough to make his move. As long as he managed to pull the Echolls kid back, he was home free. Besides, kids like Logan Echolls were weaklings. Wouldn’t last an hour in the barrio.
Too late, Logan realized Veronica wasn’t the only person standing on the bridge. Two strong arms were pulling him backwards, towards the railing and before he could react, whoever it was had pulled him over the railing and down onto the tarmac. It was hot, but that wasn’t what made Logan cry out. His abdominal area was still painful and the ribs his dad had cracked the last time were still not completely healed. The cry of pain brought Veronica down on her knees beside the two struggling guys.
To make sure Logan stayed down, Weevil had locked his arms around Logan’s neck and was pinning him down securely. They should have brought some downers. Unless they could drag him towards Veronica’s car, there was no telling what he’d do.
A man’s body, pinning him down. Naked arms touching his own. Logan panicked and thrashed about underneath the weight holding him captive. He began to hyperventilate and to Veronica’s alarm, his face was getting a blue tinge.
“Get off him, Weevil. He’s -”
“Alright. I didn’t do that to him. He was like that when I found him.”
“I know. Thanks. Now let him go. He’s going to hurt himself if -”
Weevil got up and stood between Logan and the railing. He wasn’t going over them twice on the same day just because of some rich kid on a bad trip. Once was bad enough. Though Weevil didn’t like to think about it and never talked about it, he had a bit of a fear of heights. Of course, since his fear of admitting to it was even worse than the actual problem, he usually managed to hide his true feelings.
“Logan, it’s ok. It’s just Weevil. No one’s going to hurt you.”
Looking at Logan’s face, she realized that someone already had, but it was too late for her to do anything about that, so she focused on calming Logan down. Something about his panicked reaction to Weevil’s weight had set off the alarm bells inside her. Surely even a severe beating wouldn’t be enough to cause that type of reaction? In any case, there was nothing to be done about that right now. She had to get Logan home and that meant getting him into her car.
“Weevil, do you think you could get him into my car?”
“Sure, that’s why I’m here. I’m yours to command, my lady.”
A sharp look from Veronica made Weevil shut up and reach for Logan’s now unmoving form.
“As long as the gentleman on the ground doesn’t throw another fit. Sheesh. Someone can’t handle his – poison.”
“Yeah. Never mind. Please.”
Together, they managed to get Logan to his feet, but once they got that far, Logan’s body began to shiver uncontrollably and Veronica was filled with misgivings. Unlike Weevil, she didn’t think Logan was stoned. He hardly ever did drugs, and as far as she knew, he hadn’t taken anything since they’d ended up together.
Step by step, they were able to drag Logan to her car, then get him into the backseat.
“Weevil, I’m going to need another favor. Drive us back to my place. Please.”
“Sure. I always wanted to be a fancy chauffeur. Do you have a uniform and everything, lady?”
Another cutting glance from Veronica made him drop the attitude.
“My bike – I’m going to have to make a call to my cousins. Just a sec.”
He pulled out his phone before Veronica would have time to issue another order. She was a friend and – he was willing to do his part for the Echolls kid too, but he wasn’t going to leave his bike standing unwatched for that long, not for anyone. Anyone outside his own family anyway.
That taken care of, he got into the car, in the driver’s seat. Though he wouldn’t have admitted to it, he was quite enjoying himself. Nice car. He wouldn’t mind driving something like this himself. Just a little bit less girly.
Outside Veronica’s house, he parked the car for her, then regretfully handed over the keys to her. He also had to help her move Logan out of the car and lean him on Veronica.
“Thanks, Weevil, I owe you.”
“Yeah, you do, but we’ll talk about that later.”
“Fine. Any time.”
He nodded to himself. Yes, that Echolls kid really meant a lot to Veronica. Funny. There was no accounting for taste.
The last thing he saw of the happy, or rather not so happy, couple, was Veronica with difficulty towing Logan towards her front door.
After nearly being forced to let go of Logan, Veronica was able to fish the keys out of her pocket and unlock the door. Her dad didn’t seem to be in, which was just as well.
Once inside, she didn’t even bother to lock the door behind them. She merely kicked it shut and was finally able to deposit Logan on the couch. He sank down without making a sound, except drawing a sharp breath. Veronica sat down beside him, dizzy with relief that she’d managed to stop him from following his mother’s example. She didn’t think for a moment, he’d done it just because of what she’d done, but for the time being, she wouldn’t spook him by trying to interrogate him.
Still shaking at the thought of almost having lost Logan, now that she’d finally realized how much he meant to her, she blurted out the first thing that came into her mind.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again. Do you hear me?”
He turned slightly and looked into her eyes, his own so filled with pain, Veronica gasped.
“You don’t know – if you did, you wouldn’t say that.”
She nodded stubbornly. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t make a difference to her.
“Yes, I would. You don’t seem to realize how much I love you.”
A look of pain passed across his pallid features and Veronica wondered what she’d said that had caused that reaction. Or was it possible that he was more seriously injured than she’d thought?
Her choice of words had suddenly made him recall what his father had said. You have no idea how much I love you. For years, he’d been dying to hear those very words, and now – they made him want to throw up. The memory of what had happened made him want to take a long shower. To scrub himself raw. To get rid of every trace of – A sob tore itself from him and Veronica gently put her arm around him. It didn’t help and he pulled away from her. She didn’t know – if she did she wouldn’t want to – Besides, he wasn’t clean.
“No. Don’t touch me.”
“Why not, Logan? Am I hurting you?”
He stared uncomprehendingly at her, hearing her words, but still not understanding. Finally, a glimmer of the meaning got through to him. Hurt. Pain. Yes. That was true. Physical pain. He couldn’t tell her about the rest of it.
Veronica moved back slightly, not fully believing him. After all, the last time, he’d even kissed her until his lips started to bleed again. This time, something was different, but she knew him too well, to expect him to tell her the truth. At least not right away. Besides, whatever else was different, he’d still been beaten. His face bore witness to that.
She felt even more helpless than the last time. At the time, she’d believed that the photos of him would be enough, but now she realized that no one in Neptune would dare to take on Aaron Echolls unless they had far more to go on. This time, Logan would need more help than she could give him. She’d have to tell her dad. There was no one else who would stand a chance. If she asked Weevil, he and his gang might be willing to rough up Aaron Echolls, but that would only stop him temporarily. This would take far more than just intimidation.
“Listen, Logan, I can’t help you unless you let me tell my dad. He can do more. Please, let me tell dad.”
He opened his mouth to say no. To scream loudly, to make her understand. But no words left his mouth. What did it matter? He’d failed. Nothing mattered anymore. Besides, now he couldn’t even remember why he’d been so embarrassed about letting people know his father beat him. Compared to what had happened today, that was nothing. He shouldn’t have failed. If that Weevil guy hadn’t been there – but Logan knew he was being unfair. What had happened to him had nothing to do with Weevil or Veronica. It was just being him and having a father like his.
Veronica stared in confusion at Logan. He was so – indifferent, she was worried he had another suicide attempt planned. That reminded her. She’d have to get her dad to get rid of his razors and any sleeping pills or – Frowning, in concentration, she made lists of stuff they’d need to remove from the house, so Logan couldn’t use them to hurt himself. She didn’t know what to make of this new, apathetic Logan. What had Aaron done to him this time?
To her relief, the door opened and her own dad walked in.
“Did I forget to lock the door?”
“No, I did. Sorry.”
“That’s ok, sweetie. Logan?”
Keith Mars stared at his daughter’s friend. His face – Had Logan been in another fight? Had he been robbed? Twice in just a few months, was just a little too much. There had to be something behind this.
“What happened to you, Logan?”
Logan turned and faced Veronica’s father, with a look of such hopelessness on his face, Keith was filled with compassion. Whatever it was, it wasn’t fair. As far as he knew, Logan had a reputation for being a bad boy, but Keith didn’t think it was all that serious, and besides, what kid deserved to feel that way?
“Hey, take it easy. One thing at a time. We should get you to a hospital.”
Even more concerned now, by Logan’s reaction, Keith moved closer and placed a hand on Logan’s chin, to take a closer look. To his astonishment, Logan pulled away, violently, sobbing with – what? Pain? Fear? Keith’s frown deepened. This seemed to be even more serious than he’d first expected.
“Dad, I don’t think it’s that serious, but I’ll – take a look and let you know, ok?”
Keith nodded thoughtfully. Veronica gently probed Logan’s abdomen and rib cage. Now he’d sunk back into the same apathy as before. Apparently, he wasn’t going to resist her touch. Again, his reaction had alarmed her, but she pushed her concerns to the back of her mind.
“Yes, Not so bad, really, but you’re right. I think he needs to go to the hospital. It’s just that – dad, it’s more serious than -”
“You don’t have to tell me that. I have a feeling you’ve known more than I do from the start. Ok. Does this mean you’re going to tell me the truth this time?”
“Yes. Dad, the person who did this to Logan is -”
She hesitated, knowing that their taking sides in this conflict, would mean changing their lives forever. There was a terrifying feeling of deja vu over the whole thing.
“It’s Aaron Echolls. Logan’s dad.”
Somehow, for a long time now, Keith had had a vague feeling this might be the explanation to Logan’s behavior and especially the reason for his stay at their place.
“I see. That wasn’t so bad, was it? Ok, Logan, I’ll do what I can to straighten this out. Don’t worry. I won’t let him get away with it.”
Logan didn’t seem to react to what he was saying and this helped convince Keith of his course of action. This needed to be called in. They needed to document the boy’s injuries and get his statement.
As if reading her dad’s mind, Veronica spoke up.
“Dad, I have some photos from the last time.”
“The last time being when Logan had his bike stolen?”
“Actually, there were never any robbers or bike thieves. We just -”
“Lied to me.”
“Dad, Logan didn’t want anyone to know about all this. I just managed to talk him into letting me take the pictures as insurance.”
“Give them to me. I’ll submit them as evidence.”
“I have copies put away, for safekeeping, just in case.”
“Good. Let’s go. We’ll drive Logan to the hospital and I’ll call it in.”
“Thanks, dad. I know what this means to us, but -”
“Of course we need to do the right thing.”
Suddenly, Veronica was exuberantly happy she had a dad like hers, not someone like Aaron Echolls or Jake Kane. She couldn’t be Jake Kane’s daughter. It was just impossible. She had nothing in common with him.
After casting a look at Logan, the exuberance left her. She helped Logan out to her dad’s car and sat with him in the back.
“Just one thing, Veronica – do I want to know how you managed the hospital the last time?”
“Let’s hope they don’t ask about that, then.”
“Yeah, keeping my fingers crossed.”
The hospital confirmed her first impression that Logan wasn’t too badly injured, but his lack of response to his surroundings, except once, when a male doctor tried to examine him, puzzled the staff. A female doctor took over and Logan submitted stoically to her care. They took some blood samples, which made Veronica believe they thought Logan was on some kind of drug. Good. That could only strengthen their case – evidence that Logan wasn’t on drugs or intoxicated in any way.
The sheriff arrived in person, assisted by Veronica’s some time date, Leo Damato. Leo’s smile faded when he caught sight of Logan’s injuries, but he nodded in greeting to Veronica and her dad. The sheriff cast him a glance that made him focus on his note taking instead.
“Ok. Let’s hear it then. Who did you say did this to you, kid?”
Logan made an effort to look up. The least he could do was back Keith and Veronica up. Besides, if this finally got him away from his dad, it would be worth it, despite everything.
“My dad, Aaron Echolls.”
“Let me get this straight. Your dad, the famous actor, Aaron Echolls, beat you up?”
“I see. Why did he do this?”
“He was angry because of a D in algebra.”
“Oh, really? He beat you up because you didn’t get good enough grades in school?”
“Yes. He’s done it for a lot less in the past.”
“So you’re saying your father’s done this more than once?”
Logan looked so tired, Veronica wanted to yell at the sheriff to get on with his job, instead of harassing Logan.
“How many times? Twice, three times?”
“I don’t know. Too many to count.”
“Right. For how many years? Do you remember that?”
“Since I was – since as far back as I can remember. Since I was four, five, six. I don’t know.”
“And no one’s noticed?”
“I don’t know. No one’s said anything. Check my medical records.”
“I will. So, to summarize, you claim to have been physically abused by your father, for at least ten years?”
“Ok. That’s it, deputy. We’re done here. I’ll want your report on my desk before your shift ends.”
Leo put away his pen and notepad and hurried outside, before the sheriff found fault with him again.
The sheriff stared at Logan in distaste. Apparently, he was a big fan of Aaron Echolls, or perhaps he was under strict orders by the mayor, to see to the interests of the most prominent citizen before all others.
“I have to say that whatever you’ve done, this – blaming your father – was beyond my worst expectations. You think I don’t know about you and your – activities? Without your father’s protection, I’d have had you locked up more than once. Now you turn on him. What’s he done to you? Cut off your allowance? Did he catch you doing drugs?”
“If my father knew I was taking drugs, he might beat me. He beats me for everything and nothing, but he wouldn’t do anything to stop me, as long as I didn’t touch his stash.”
Keith Mars realized it was time he stepped in before Logan made things more difficult for himself.
“Logan – let’s go. The doctor said you were in good enough shape to come with us.”
Logan looked up and realized he was getting himself in deeper trouble by accusing his dad of drug possession. He’d better stop before the sheriff was so disgusted with him he tore up the report.
“I guess – I was mistaken.”
“About your dad beating you?”
“No. About his drug use. I don’t know anything about that. It was just that I was upset.”
“That’s ok, Logan. We should go.”
“Yes. Thanks, mr Mars.”
“Wait a minute. Who said anything about taking Logan with you, Keith?”
“Logan is a friend of my daughter’s and surely you’re not suggesting Logan spend another night under his father’s roof, after this?”
The sheriff hesitated. He knew that pending an investigation, he’d be forced to remove a minor from a potentially abusive home, even if that home belonged to Aaron Echolls. Getting social services to turn out for a boy this age, was difficult enough under normal circumstances. Putting Logan Echolls into care would only increase the risk of having every tabloid in the state, and some from the east coast, running towards him. No matter how he felt about Keith Mars, he knew he could count on his predecessor to keep a low profile.
“Ok. We’ll know where to find Logan when we’ll need him to testify.”
“I suggest you get yourself an attorney, mr Echolls. You’re going to need one.”
Logan sagged a little. He had no money of his own. Somehow he doubted his grandparents would pay for a lawyer to work against his dad, even his mom’s parents. Trina – would just as soon throw her money in the Pacific, that is if she had any. As far as he knew, she was even worse off than he was, most of the time. He briefly thought of Duncan, but realized that any money his friend had, came from Jake Kane, his dad’s ex. It was hardly likely that one of them would like to go up against his dad.
“Thank you, we will.”
Logan looked up to see Keith Mars standing protectively above him. At first he couldn’t even believe what he’d heard. Was Veronica’s dad going to foot the bill for his legal representation? Against his dad and the movie company and – everyone else who was rooting for the celebrity. How the gossip magazines would love this. Echlls vs Echolls and not a divorce this time, but something far more juicy. What if Trina thought to add her two cents too, hoping to help her dad out? Would the jury excuse a man for hitting his son when that son was propositioning him?
Suddenly, Logan felt faint and the light around him went all weird. In the silence that followed, he almost felt relieved. He didn’t feel anything anymore.
When she saw Logan slide off the table, Veronica screamed. She and her dad rushed to catch Logan before he hit the floor.
A look of alarm flew across the sheriff’s features. No matter how he felt about Logan, he didn’t want to be held responsible for the kid going into shock or whatever it was. He had a feeling Aaron Echolls would want his son back, even after something like this.
Veronica lightly slapped Logan’s cheeks, hoping he’d come to, before they had to call the doctor again. She knew he wouldn’t want to spend the night at the hospital.
“Logan, come on. Wake up. Logan, can you hear me?”
Logan’s eyelids fluttered open and when he recognized Veronica, he pleaded with her.
“Don’t let him touch me again.”
“I won’t, I swear. Come on, let’s get you home.”
The sheriff was still standing in the examination room, scratching his head in confusion as Keith Mars’ petite daughter more or less dragged Logan Echolls out of the room. He’d heard something in the boy’s voice as he came to, which led him to believe that someone must have beaten the boy badly. The kid hadn’t been more than half aware of what he was saying, and yet there had been such fear and pleading in the voice. He wished almost anything else had happened. Why not a nice controllable earthquake or a bank robbery? That would have been so much easier to handle.
Veronica somehow managed to support Logan on the way out to the car, while Keith uneasily studied his charges. Something was definitely wrong with the boy, and the rather superficial injuries he had this time couldn’t fully explain them. Of course, now Keith recalled how the boy had looked the last time, and felt sick as he realized this type of abuse was something Logan had had to live with practically all his life.
He couldn’t understand how he’d been taken in before. You thought you knew someone, especially Aaron Echolls, who had seemed extremely easy to read. Now he was finding new personality traits he’d never suspected existed. The drugs didn’t surprise him, but Aaron’s treatment of his son did. Not to mention his relationship with Jake Kane – and – Keith wasn’t taken in by the media’s retractions – with Conner Larkin. Keith had a bad feeling about the whole affair.
Now Logan was conscious and since the doctor had seen to him, no longer in pain. He seemed to feel it necessary to elaborate on his father’s drug use. Perhaps he felt as if no one had believed him.
“He does have a stash at the house – and a dealer who -”
“Logan, I don’t doubt that, but I was only trying to keep the sheriff’s mind focused on the main issue. Do you really care if your father is busted for drug use and possession? Isn’t the main thing getting him to give up his claims on you?”
Logan’s face was so white, Keith worried the kid would pass out again.
“Yes. You’re right. But if they do find his stuff and the gun without a license – Oh, what does it matter? He’s a personal friend of Charlton Heston. In fact he was sort of a mentor to him once. Of course, pretty much everyone older than dad has been his ‘mentor’ at one time or another. Even Rock Hudson, which kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”
Veronica didn’t really listen to what Logan was saying. She was more concerned with getting him home without any delays. He looked awfully weak. All he seemed to do anyway, was going on and on about some old actors his dad might have known. She knew who Charlton Heston was, of course, since he was in the papers and on tv off and on, campaigning about the right to carry a gun, but the other guy was only vaguely familiar to her. Why Logan was making such a big deal out his friendship with his dad, she had no idea.
Keith cast a concerned glance at Logan through the rearview mirror. His voice made it sound as if somehow, he was pushing himself to the limits. The sooner they could get the boy to bed the better. At least some sleep might help.
“Rock Hudson? I met him once. We handled security for him – oh, way back, when I was a rookie.”
But Logan didn’t seem to be interested in any reminiscenses about Veronica’s dad’s early days on the job. By now, his nervous tension had fizzled out and he sunk down in the backseat. If Keith wasn’t mistaken he would be falling asleep soon. They could only hope he’d still be in good enough shape to walk inside, since he didn’t seem to tolerate anyone’s touch but Veronica’s.
At least Keith’s hopes were realized. Logan did walk on his own, only slightly supported by Veronica. His mind on other matters, Keith allowed the kids to make their sleeping arrangements as they pleased. He decided to go and sit in the office for a while.
After a few moments of consideration, he lifted the receiver and punched in the sheriff department’s number. To his relief it was Leo Damato who picked up.
“Hi, Leo. Keith Mars here. I was wondering if the sheriff’s been over at Aaron Echolls’ place yet.”
“Hi, Keith. No, he didn’t go there. He just called and informed him of the charges. Aaron Echolls will be in tomorrow afternoon with his attorney,”
“I see. Did – can you tell if the sheriff’s taking the case seriously? Or is he just trying to sweep it under the rug?”
Leo hesitated. Strictly speaking, he shouldn’t be discussing the case with an outsider, which Keith Mars was, technically. On the other hand, Keith was a friend and the father of a young woman Leo was extremely partial to.
“Well, when he went out there and had me take notes, I got the feeling he wasn’t really interested. Then when he got back here, he seemed to have changed his mind. Do you know what’s going on?”
Now it was Keith’s turn to hesitate. Leo was obligated to share any information with the sheriff, but what he had to say wouldn’t really hurt the case from any point of view.
“All I can say is, I believe the boy. I saw his injuries the last time, and it was bad, really bad.”
“Oh. I guess you never can tell.”
“Exactly. Ok, Leo. Thanks for the information.”
“No problem. I hope Logan’s feeling a little better now.”
“I think he’s asleep by now, so yes, I do think he’s feeling a little better.”
“Good. Would you say hi to Veronica for me?”
“I sure will, Leo. Good night.”
Keith knew what he had to do next, but he wasn’t sure if he ought wait until his attorney had had a chance to study the case, or if he ought to attack right away, while Aaron was still off balance. Logan’s filing charges must have come as a shock to Aaron, it was impossible to imagine otherwise. In the end, Keith decided to make his move right away.
He only took time to leave a message to his attorney and to look in on the kids, before leaving. As he’d suspected, Logan was sleeping in Veronica’s bed, but she was on the couch, fully dressed, apparently prepared to keep an eye on Logan throughout the night.
“Get some sleep now, honey. I have to go out for a while, but I’ll be back soon.”
“What are you going to do?”
Veronica’s eyes fastened on him, as if she was trying to determine whether what he was about to do would be risky or not.
“I’ll try to make sure Logan never has to go back to Aaron again.”
“Be careful, dad.”
“I will. Go on, get some sleep now. After what they gave Logan at the hospital, he’ll be out for at least a couple of hours.”
Over at the Echolls residence, Keith found a car standing outside the gates, the engine running. At least the car had pulled over to the side, so he could pass. Before going in, Keith stopped and walked over to take a look at whoever was waiting. He was surprised to see Conner Larkin behind the wheel, deeply absorbed in what looked like part of a script. Conner was so intent on his studying, he only noticed someone was standing over him, when Keith coughed right beside his ear.
A hot flush spread across the young man’s features, no doubt because he recalled the compromising photos which had been circulated only a couple of months back. Though they’d never met in person, Conner knew Keith Mars from the Lilly Kane case, which had made headlines all over the state. After meeting and growing to like Keith’s daughter Veronica, Conner had been paying more attention to the talk about the former sheriff and his family.
“Hello. I’m just -”
“Don’t look so alarmed. I’m not the sheriff anymore. Just curious. By the way, I saw the last episode. Good work. Interesting twist.”
Again, Conner blushed, this time at the praise. He hadn’t imagined the former sheriff, now private investigator, to have followed his career. Struck by a thought, he again felt mortified with shame. What if Keith Mars thought he was waiting for Aaron?
“Like I said, I’m just waiting for Trina. She had to pick up a few things – I mean, she’s staying with me so -”
This was news to Keith and he was wondering if Trina’s moving out, so relatively soon after she’d returned, could have anything to do with what Aaron had done to Logan. If so, perhaps he’d need to sound Trina out. She gave the impression of being a spoiled rotten brat, who was jealous of her brother and her stepmother, and desperately anxious to please her father. Why else would she have entered the acting profession, with so little talent and so little real motivation? Keith knew Veronica had once been friendly with the girl, but that must have been a long time ago. Before Lilly Kane was murdered and their lives had changed forever.
“I see. Well, I’ll be going up to the house myself. Take care of yourself.”
“You too, sir.”
Not that Conner thought Aaron would be partial to Keith Mars and presumably, Aaron wouldn’t be stupid enough to try any hostilites against the former sheriff either. It never occurred to Conner to wonder why Keith Mars was going to see Aaron Echolls. He just returned to studying his lines.
Keith buzzed to be let inside and waited for the security guards to challenge him and ask for his business. To his surprise, the gates swung open anyway. The surveillance camera must have picked up his features and Aaron must have given orders for him to be allowed inside.
His suspicions were confirmed. Aaron opened the door himself and with a defiant look on his face, he let Keith inside.
“Let’s go into my study.”
Aaron still looked self-assured and Keith wondered what the actor thought he had up his sleeve. Was he merely acting or was he so sure he would win the case, he wasn’t even worried? Keith himself felt quite confident about his side of the issue, so he didn’t let himself be dejtected. In Aaron’s business, everything was about appearances. There was no telling what the man really felt, deep down.
Aaron sat down behind his desk and curtly nodded towards a chair facing the desk. Keith calmly sat down.
“I suppose you’ve come to ask me to give up my boy?”
“I’ve come to help you see sense. Things can’t go on the way they have, Aaron. You have to see that it’s not fair to the boy. The last time -”
“The last time?”
Aaron still smiled infuriatingly serenely.
“Yes, the last time. When you let Logan stay with me. I saw him. Those injuries weren’t the result of an accident. And since it happened again, I can only assume you’ve made it a habit.”
“It’s my right as a father to punish my son the way I see fit.”
“What I saw the last time and tonight, wasn’t the result of any reasonable punishment. Logan was badly beaten. His arm was broken, Aaron.”
“And you’re saying I did that to him?”
Keith hesitated. It wasn’t his place to make accusations, but on the other hand, he had to defeat Aaron so decisively he never tried to get his hands on the boy again.
“That’s what Logan’s saying, and I believe him. The sheriff’s subpoenaed Logan’s medical records.”
Something flashed in Aaron’s eyes, but his expression never changed.
“Aaron, let him go. If you continue like this, you’ll kill him. Is that really what you want?”
“I love my son. More than you can imagine.”
“If you do, then let him go.”
“Why? Because you say so? I’m warning you, Keith. Remember what happened when you took on Jake Kane? What do you think is going to happen if you get in my way?”
Keith remembered the photos of Aaron and Jake and smiled condescendingly. From what his sources told him, Aaron and Jake weren’t as close as they used to be.
“Your – friend Jake? Is he going to help you with this?”
Now it definitely wasn’t his imagination. Aaron’s eyes flashed warningly. Keith never let his eyes leave the man on the other side of the desk. He hadn’t forgotten Logan’s words about the gun without a license, Aaron allegedly had.
The sound of footsteps coming down the stairs temporarily broke the tension between the two men. Both men stared towards the door leading into the hallway. Trina Echolls’ face came into sight. She glanced curiously into her father’s study.
A look of relief spread across Aaron’s features.
“Wait a minute. If you like, we could ask Trina. My daughter will tell you I never lay a hand on my children. Trina, baby, will you come inside for a moment?”
Trina stopped as if considering, then slowly walked across the hallway floor and entered her father’s study. She remained standing just inside the door, as if she was reluctant to approach any closer.
“Darling, Keith Mars is accusing me of – abusing Logan. Tell him that’s nonsense. You’ve grown up here. Have you ever seen me hurting Logan?”
Trina’s face had an odd expression, as if she wanted to turn and run, but she didn’t. Instead, she fixed her gaze on Keith Mars, while she was addressing her father.
“You want me to tell the truth?”
“Yes, sweetie. Go ahead. Tell mr Mars how wrong he is.”
“Ok. I’ll tell the truth this time. Mr Mars – today I was in my room, reading a magazine. I heard some noises in the corridor outside. It sounded as if two people were arguing. I knew who it was. My father and Logan. Logan’s always such a pain. This time though, it sounded worse than ever, and I heard a vase smash and the sounds of someone being pushed into the wall. At least there was a heavy thud. Dad was – yelling and – After a while things got quiet, so I decided to go outside and take a look. I was -”
Trina broke off hesitantly, as if she couldn’t quite believe her own words. She’d been about to say she was worried – about Logan. That had never happened before, but Veronica had shown her some photos that had been disturbing her ever since and the argument between her father and younger brother had concerned her more than she wanted to admit.
Keith Mars waited, but when nothing more seemed to be forthcoming, he gently prodded her.
“Well? Was your father beating Logan?”
“I couldn’t see. They weren’t in the corridor anymore. So I – went to look inside Logan’s room, but it was empty. Then I went to check in dad’s room and -”
“Yes? Go on.”
“They were on dad’s bed. With no clothes on. Dad was lying on top of Logan. He was having sex with him – touching him, kissing him.”
Now there was a tremor in Trina’s voice and she couldn’t go on. She began to sob and Keith could see tears filling her eyes.
“Trina – was Logan hurt?”
“He wasn’t moving, but his face was covered in blood. Yes, dad had been beating him.”
Aaron looked as if he’d never seen his daughter before. He couldn’t quite believe he’d heard what he’d just heard.
“Trina – why are you doing this?”
“Don’t you get it? You’re sick. What you were doing was sick. Disgusting.”
Aaron’s face twisted into a mask of rage.
“You dumb slut. You don’t know what you’re saying. Get out of my house before I -”
“Aaron, don’t say anything you’ll regret later. Thank you, Trina. I’m sure Logan will appreciate what you’ve done for him.”
“I doubt it. Oh, don’t worry dad, I’m going. I’m moving in with your ex-lover, Conner. Guess what? He says I’m much better in bed than you are. Much better.”
Keith could see that Trina’s words were only so much bravado. She was still crying and now she turned on her heel and left the room. Keith too, got up. He’d got what he came for. Trina would testify on her brother’s behalf, if it became necessary. Perhaps, after this, Aaron would plead no contest to the charges of physical abuse, just so he could avoid ending up being listed as a sex offender. Keith would love to see him answer to those charges too, but he couldn’t wish that on Logan.
“Aaron – if you sign away your right to Logan, you and the sheriff might be able to come to a deal without bringing up – what happened today – I mean apart from the physical abuse. Think it over.”
Aaron’s eyes blazed at Keith, but he made no move to get up and follow him. To Keith’s relief, he didn’t reach for his desk drawer either. He just sat behind his desk, glaring at his guest as he was leaving.
When Keith got back to his car, Conner’s car was gone. Trina must have hurried him along. Keith didn’t feel any exultation over having defeated Aaron Echolls. Finding out the truth about what he’d done to his son, had only made him sad. He was wondering how the incident would affect Logan’s mental health. There had already been hints that Logan was on a self-destructive path. This would hardly help. Keith was hoping he and Veronica could prove a positive influence in the boy’s life. In any case, he’d need to assume the responsibility as Logan’s guardian, unless Lynn’s parents would claim him. Somehow he doubted that. From what he’d heard, Lynn hadn’t been on talking terms with her family for a long time.
Keith decided to keep his knowledge to himself. He didn’t think Logan would want anyone to know his secret. On the other hand, once the first shock had settled, Keith would encourage Logan to go into therapy. Perhaps the therapist would be able to help him.
When he got back, he noted to his satisfaction that Veronica was fast asleep on the couch. He opened the door to her room and found Logan similarly asleep. Making sure the door was locked, Keith decided to call it a night as well. Leaving his own door open, he fell into bed, feeling as tired as the kids.
The following morning, Trina called Veronica. Veronica had been up for hours, but it sounded as if Trina had only just made it out of bed.
“Hi, Veronica. It’s Trina. Remember I said we’d do lunch some day? How about now?”
Veronica paused reflectively. Why did Trina want to see her now? Did this have anything to do with Logan and what his dad had done to him?
Trina mentioned a ridiculously expensive restaurant in downtown Neptune. Veronica briefly considered letting Trina pay, then recalled that Trina most likely didn’t have much money of her own.
“How about the old pizza place?”
Now it was Trina’s turn to pause and think. Actually, she liked pizza too. All that fancy stuff was just part of the image.
“Ok. See you there in – an hour?”
“I’ll be there.”
Veronica was relieved to find her dad at home, busy in the kitchen. If she could only get him to stay with Logan, she would be able to see Trina and hurry back to relieve dad, so he could finally go to work.
“Yes? Who was that on the phone?”
“It was Trina. Trina Echolls.”
Keith watched his daughter with interest. Perhaps he ought to contact Trina too, or rather, he’d better phone Leo and the sheriff to remind them that there was a testimony to be collected. Of course, he’d better have a word with Trina about leaving out certain details about what she’d seen. No need to traumatize her and her brother more than necessary, though Aaron deserved all he could take.
“Oh. What did she want?”
“She wanted to meet me for lunch.”
“Could you stay with Logan until I get back?”
“No problem. I’ll need to talk to the attorney anyway. Oh, listen, sweetie, I tackled Aaron last night and – so far it’s looking good. I think he’ll agree to give up Logan now.”
“Great. Thanks, dad, you’re the best.”
“I’m glad you think so. Now hurry. I’m fixing some lunch for Logan and myself, but later in the afternoon, I’ll need to take care of some work.”
“Ok. No problem.”
Veronica got into her car and drove off to meet Trina. She couldn’t help speculating on what Trina wanted. The last time they’d met, Trina had been completely indifferent to her brother’s suffering. Could something have happened since then, to change her mind?
She found a table that was free and sat down to wait. Trina took such a long time to arrive, Veronica was wondering if for some reason, she’d been set up. Finally, Trina walked in, wearing a ridiculous scarf around her head, and some huge sunglasses. Was that her way of remaining incognito, or was she simply cultivating the actress look? In any case, Trina didn’t smile even politely. She looked upset somehow.
They ordered their favorite pizzas – Veronica noted that Trina picked the same as hers. The vegetarian choice. Was Trina concerned about her figure? Surely it couldn’t be her health she was worried about?
Uneasily, Trina glanced around the terrace, and didn’t begin to talk until she seemed sure she wasn’t being overheard.
“I hope you’re happy now. You won. Those photos you showed me and – what I saw yesterday convinced me. I’ll never forgive him. I hate him.”
“Trina, your dad has to be sick in some way. Maybe he’s changed. The dad you knew -”
“Oh, daddy too, naturally, but I was talking about Logan. I loved dad so much and – now he’s ruined him for me. When I walked in and caught them – in bed together – I knew you were right. I guess he never loved me at all. It was always Logan, Logan, Logan. And that Lynn person.”
Veronica’s face lost all color. What did Trina mean? Caught them in bed together? Surely that couldn’t mean –
Trina went on, as if she was unaware of Veronica’s reaction.
“I know that it must have been dad’s fault. Ok, I admit it. It was his fault. Logan – I think maybe he was unconscious. Or maybe dad threatened to kill him or something. But I – I’ll never feel the same way about dad anymore.”
“Trina, what was Aaron doing to him?”
Veronica’s voice was brittle with shock.
“Didn’t he tell you? Dad was lying on top of him. They were – naked and dad was kissing him and touching him. Oh, it was gross. I threw up afterwards. And just look at my eyes.”
Trina pulled off her glasses with a dramatic gesture. Veronica had to admit that they were kind of red and puffy. How typical of Trina to focus on her own reaction, not on Logan’s trauma.
“I know it’s not your fault. Not Logan’s either, I guess. Tell your dad I will testify if I have to, but I don’t want to see Logan. He won’t want to see me either, I’m sure. I – kind of yelled at him when I saw them together. I don’t know if he’ll remember but – I was wrong. Like I told you, I know it was dad’s fault. You can tell him I’m – sorry.”
For the first time since Veronica had met Trina, she thought the older girl sounded sincere and wasn’t merely striving to make an impression.
“Ok. I’ll tell him. If he’s in a mood to talk about it at all.”
“Is he – badly injured?”
“Not this time.”
Both girls sat in silence, trying to imagine what that might mean. Had Logan been able to buy himself some time by – Veronica felt her eyes fill up with tears. Trina looked as if she felt sick, but Veronica wasn’t sure if that was for Logan’s sake or for her own. Veronica had to admit that it must have been quite a shock for Trina too, to suddenly, in one split second, lose her beloved father, or rather realizing that he’d never existed. Not the person she thought she knew. But Veronica couldn’t feel very sorry for Trina. She’d never been beaten or sexually assaulted, at least as far as she knew. She’d spent the past years acting victims of abuse, not actually being one.
Neither girl had touched their pizzas. Veronica looked around, and quickly put hers into her bag. She knew a dog who wouldn’t say no thanks to any people food. Trina hardly noticed.
“I’d better get back to Conner now. He’s working on the producers to write me into his show. Wouldn’t that be kind of cool? I might get to play his girlfriend on tv as well.”
Veronica recalled Trina’s offer of testifying on Logan’s behalf and her hesitant apology. Knowing how much her acting career meant to Trina, and how important Conner seemed to be to her, Veronica forced herself to smile, though she was crying on the inside.
“Yes, that would be great. Good luck.”
“Thanks. Oh, you have a dog, right? Go on. Take my pizza too. What will that be? Supper?”
“Thanks, I will.”
Veronica once again looked around furtively, then pushed the other pizza into her bag as well. Fortunately, she had a plastic bag inside it, so the lining wouldn’t get greasy. Yes, there was at least one member of her family who would be happy today.
Trina looked as if she had something else on her mind, so Veronica patiently waited while Trina got the words out.
“You’ll – look after him, right? I mean, now that Lynn is gone and so on.”
“Yeah. I will. Don’t worry about him. Besides, I don’t think Lynn cared that much about him either.”
Trina thought that over then nodded.
“I think you’re right. I guess – I might have been nicer to him when we were growing up. When he was little, he always admired me so much. I was just so jealous and I hated that Lynn person.”
“Never mind, Trina. What you’re doing for him helps make up for it. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it – some day.”
“Ok. You’ll keep in touch, won’t you?”
“Sure. Say hi to Conner for me.”
On her way back, Veronica had to fight hard to keep the tears from overflowing. Suddenly, her own experiences came back to her, then the night when Wallace had been attacked because of her. This time, she didn’t think she could be held responsible, but that didn’t help much. All the people she loved had suffered since Lilly’s death. Would it never end?
Back at the house, she was startled to realize no one was around, except her dog who lazily sat up and yawned, then began to sniff her bag enthusiastically.
“Ok, here you go, baby. I don’t want you to get fat, so I’ll put the rest of it into that cupboard. Yes, way up there. I’ll give you more later.”
Veronica hurriedly tore off about half of one of the pizzas, then put away the rest, to her dog’s disappointment. She looked around for a note from her dad. Would he have gone off without letting her know? When she didn’t find one, she decided to head over to the office.
That was where she found her dad and Logan busily going through some surveillance tapes. Logan’s face was still stiff and white, but he seemed to be holding together as well as could be expected.
“Hey, why didn’t you let me know you were going to be out? I was worried.”
Her dad looked up and turned off the tape recorder he was listening to.
“I’m sorry, sweetie. We just had to talk to the attorney and then -”
“I asked your dad if I could help out. This stuff is interesting.”
“Ok, good. Logan, could I talk to you for a moment?”
Veronica had struggled with herself all the way back. Was she going to make things worse for Logan by telling him she knew what had happened or was it better to keep her knowledge to herself? It might be possible to just tell him Trina had been concerned about him and was sorry she hadn’t believed him earlier. On the other hand, he must have seen her come in, catching them in the act. If she mentioned Trina at all, she’d need to level with him. Besides, her dad would probably have told him where she was going and possibly about Trina’s promised testimony.
Logan sounded guarded and reluctant, but it looked as if he felt trapped, not wanting to brush her off either.
They went back to the house, where they were greeted by a tail wagging dog. To Veronica’s surprise, Logan reached down and patted the dog’s head. She hadn’t noticed any fond feelings between him and the dog before. Despite everything, she couldn’t help smiling faintly.
“Logan, I guess dad told you I was going to see Trina.”
He sounded indifferent and went on patting the dog’s head, long after the dog seemed to have lost interest. Philosophically it went to sleep on the floor, ignoring the guy whose hand was constantly stroking its head.
“She told me – she was sorry she hadn’t believed you before.”
Again, it sounded as if Logan was merely humoring her, making polite conversation. Veronica was wondering if she’d have to abandon the attempt at discussing the incident with him.
“And she said she’ll testify if she has to.”
“I don’t want her to.”
“If your dad tries to fight the charges, she’ll have to.”
“Won’t the photos be enough?”
“Let’s hope so. In fact, just knowing that Trina will testify might put him off.”
HIs tone of voice didn’t encourage any further comments, but Veronica felt she had to continue anyway.
Suddenly, he turned on her, looking so fierce, Veronica almost took a step back, involuntarily. She had a horrible feeling this was something like what Aaron looked like when he turned on his son.
“Ok, so she told you. I knew she wouldn’t be able to keep her mouth shut. Knowing her, I’m sure she told you who she blames for – what happened.”
“You’re wrong, Logan. She told me she was sorry for accusing you. After thinking it over, she realized that it was your dad’s fault.”
Logan went on as if he hadn’t heard her.
“He was going to kill me this time. I knew he was. If I hadn’t – I mean -”
He broke off, overcome with sobbing. Veronica wanted to pull him into her arms and hold him, to tell him it would be ok, but she knew she’d be lying. Perhaps she was more or less ok now, but what he’d been through had to have been much worse. Would he ever get through this? She gave up the struggle against her own tears and for a while, there was no sound inside the living room, apart from their sobbing and the dog’s soft snoring.
Finally, Veronica regained control over herself. She knew someone had to be grownup about this and she couldn’t let Logan go on hating himself for what he’d done.
“It’s ok, Logan. I understand. I would have done the same thing. This is all his fault. If he hadn’t been such a sick bastard, you’d never have had to -”
“But I did, didn’t I? Just like his bitch Conner and Jake Kane and – everyone else. Mom too. I guess it’s hereditary – being a whore. Except, I’m worse. I’m a pervert. Just like him.”
“No, you’re wrong, Logan. Listen to me. It wasn’t your fault.”
“You think that makes me feel any better?”
No. She didn’t think so at all. After all, it had taken her nearly a year to recover from being raped, but she’d been out cold while it was going on. Logan –
“Not now, but later – Logan, when I was -”
He was going to yell at her that it wasn’t the same thing, unless Keith Mars had been one of the attackers, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Talking about that had to be hard for her and he knew she was doing it for his sake, to try and make him feel a little better. Somehow, it did. It wasn’t the same, but – then again, it wasn’t all that different either.
He reached out and pulled her into his arms and held on to her, hoping that feeling her body against his would make some of the pain go away. She pressed her face into his chest and leaned into him. It did feel a little better. Together, they just might be able to keep each other safe.
Eventually, the moment passed and they sat down on the couch, still holding on to each other.
“Poor old Trina. It must have been hard on her, losing all her illusions about dad.”
“Yes. It was. She was totally shaken up. Of course, she did feel extremely sorry for herself. But she was concerned about you. And like I said, she said she was sorry – that she didn’t understand.”
“Ok. Now, I’d better get back to work. Your dad and I were going to -”
“Oh, I’ll come too. I’ll just bring my homework. Tomorrow, I’ll go and pick up some stuff for you from school.”
“Whatever. I’m not sure I’ll want to stay in school -”
“Of course you are. You can’t let him win. We’ll graduate together and then -”
“Then I’ll look for a real job. Like becoming a private investigator.”
“Yeah, there’s that. It’s kind of cool, actually. Did dad show you how to bug a place?”
“No, not yet.”
“Wait and see. There’s more. Most of it’s really interesting. And we get plenty of time for other stuff, on stakeouts – like doing homework.”
Logan had been about to say that they could always make out, when he remembered. There would be no making out for a long time, at least not for him. Maybe never. He still felt – tarnished – dirty – as if he’d never be clean again. Veronica wouldn’t want to be close to him. Not after this. Despite everything, he had been hoping she wouldn’t find out, but even if she’d never learned about it, it wouldn’t have changed anything. He knew. Nothing would ever make him forget. What he’d done was still with him, eating him up, like a cancer growth. Even if the pain would grow easier to bear, he didn’t think the scar would ever leave him.
On the other hand, he knew he ought to be grateful – to Veronica – her dad – and to his sister. Without their help, he’d still be in his dad’s house, waiting for the next time and the next. He’d have been faced with the same choice over and over again. His life or his dignity. At least his friends and his sister had spared him that. It would have to be enough.