CHAPTER NINE

I don't want Logan to know. This was a problem. Hearing someone tell her she couldn't do something or that she should stop investigating something was akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull. Kleine Schritte, Trina's secret clinic, potentially held the answer to her question of motive. It was possible that a person from those four years was seeking revenge against Trina and to find them Veronica needed to delve into the mystery surrounding said clinic, but she couldn't get the answers without Logan's help. Even if she did find a way to do it on her own, once she knew the story how could she not share it with him? Her mind easily supplied the justification. It's not your secret to tell Veronica, it belongs to Trina.

Their drive home from The Neptune Grand was absent conversation. Logan turned on the radio; a sure sign that he didn't feel like talking, which was a relief because it allowed her time to think. Of course, after sending Mac home, feeding Wyatt, cleaning the living room and taking a long shower, her thoughts hadn't progressed past not knowing what to do. Damn you Trina.

"It's unnerving when you're this quiet."

Veronica popped up from behind the refrigerator door to find him leaning against the counter. "I was deciding what to make for dinner."

"Don't get me wrong, I love domestic Veronica, but you've been staring at those shelves for twenty minutes."

She bent over, shimmied her butt and peeked at him over her shoulder, "been enjoying the view have you?"

"It's one of my favorite sights."

"One?" Removing the chicken breast from the freezer drawer, she put it on the counter and took jalapeno peppers from the fridge.

"Paris is nice too."

She took out lettuce and tomatoes and added them to her pile. "If you're thinking honeymoon, start thinking Italy and Greece."

Logan shook his head, "Dick's really got his heart set on Teahupo'o; the waves are bitchin."

"A surfing honeymoon?"

He grinned, "got to keep the little woman happy."

Veronica tilted her head and frowned, "I thought you were the girl?"

"In this relationship maybe." He pulled her against him and kissed the top of her head, "so what's really going on in that beautiful mind of yours?"

"I'm thinking about Trina."

He took a step back, then another and finally turned away suddenly fascinated by the Keurig coffee machine. It was a recent addition to the counter. New purchases just kept appearing in the house. Veronica grinned; Logan was nesting. "I'm thinking Island Coconut coffee; it goes with the theme of my Tahitian honeymoon."

"Too bad you'll be in Italy and Greece."

"If we're trying for trite honeymoon destinations, I'll just book us a room at Niagara Falls. Less expensive and I hear the Maid of the Mist boat ride is a must." He cupped his hands around the mug of coffee and returned to leaning against the counter. "Fiji? Indonesia? The Maldives?"

Veronica turned on the food processor, "sorry can't hear you." This was one of the recipes Dick showed her how to make; chicken tostadas with avocado dressing. Bed rest and boredom turned into cooking lessons with Dick; new life skills and also an effective way to keep from killing him. She turned off the machine, "Trina asked me to stop investigating Kleine Schritte."

"I heard her. She might not know how to act, but she can project loud enough for the cheap seats."

"Does that mean you also heard her, I don't want Logan to know, comment?" He nodded. "So was this a test? You'd keep the information to yourself and wait to see if I would share?" Only with Logan could she move from concern to teasing flirt and up to mad in two point seven seconds. It was dizzying.

"Hey Veronica, it's not all about you." Mocking, but without any anger. "No test, I just wasn't ready to talk about it yet."

Now she was no longer mad at him, but herself. She put the avocado dressing in the fridge to chill and thawed the chicken in the microwave. Testing her certainly wasn't the worse thing she'd ever accused Logan of doing, but she needed to learn how to stop snapping at him. "Why do you put up with me?"

Logan swept the hair away from her neck and planted a trail of kisses up her spine. "You're sexy when you cook." One arm snaked around her waist while his mouth found that spot on her neck, the spot, that only he seemed to be able to find.

"Logan," a soft sigh.

"Hmm." He nibbled on her ear. "I love you Veronica Mars."

Her eyes closed and she leaned back into him, "dinner's going to burn."

"We can eat cake."

One eye popped open, "cake? We've got cake?"

She felt his smile against her throat. "Good to know I can be replaced with a slice of German Chocolate Nutgasm."

"From the Hut?" Veronica eyed the refrigerator, "you're not just toying with me right?"

"I was trying," Logan groaned and stepped back in defeat.

She pouted, "I meant about the cake."

"Sadly I know that." He pulled open the fridge and leaned in. From the far reaches of the bottom shelf, hidden behind a bunch of kale, he retrieved a plastic container.

She lowered the flame on the chicken, got a fork and hopped up on the counter to eat her cake. "What do you want to do about Trina?"

"Obviously Conner has information about the clinic since he was able to reach her. When we talk to him tomorrow, we'll ask him what he knows." He picked up his coffee, "and was he really done sleeping with Julie? I don't see him as the, I can't have her so no one else can type, but…" He shrugged.

"When we talk to him?"

"While you were in the shower I called Dottie to have her babysit tomorrow. Conner is going to meet us for lunch at Breakers and we have an appointment at Porcellian Security at three."

"Someone was busy."

He smiled, "don't worry I'm billing you for my time."

"What do you think your sister's hiding?" Her words made his smile disappear. "And are you really okay with trying to find out something she doesn't want you to know?"

"Chicken's done." He turned off the stove.

Veronica slid off the counter to finish cooking. She shredded the chicken, sautéed the jalapenos with garlic and added the chicken to it. Then she fried the tortillas. "Dick stresses the importance of plating, he says you eat with your eyes first."

"Did Veronica Mars just quote Dick Casablancas? God, Veronica my world was shaky enough to begin with and now you're quoting Dick?"

Ignoring him, she put the tortilla on a plate and covered it with the chicken mixture. Crumbled queso fresco, shredded lettuce and diced tomato were next. Finally, she put a few dollops of the avocado dressing on top, "ahí está"

Logan took the offered plate. "Gracias mi amada." He put the dish on the table, took down two glasses from the cabinet and got lemonade from the fridge. "It certainly wasn't for her spending addiction. Drugs?"

When Veronica finished making her plate she joined him at the table. "Maybe." She had her own thoughts on what Trina was hiding and there was no point speculating until they were sure. "Above the line talent?"

"It has to do with the budget. Actors, directors, producers and writers are above the line because they are usually fixed expenses. Below the line is the film crew." He started eating, "what's our next step Nancy Drew?"

"Well Ned," at his arched brow, she elaborated, "Ned Nickerson, Nancy's boyfriend."

"I was always partial to Frank Hardy."

"But you're pretty enough to be Joe." When he didn't comment, she continued. "I'm going to have Mac run a background check on Julie. If the pranks were to make her death look like an accident, this might not be about Trina at all. Then I want to check in with Norris and see if I can get the case file. How the lights were tampered with may tell me the electrical skill level required."

"What are you going to do about the Kanes? I can't imagine they're going to willfully talk to you."

"I don't know." There weren't that many options open to her. Neither Celeste nor Jake would consider her one of their favorite people. Ditto for her father. "Do you want to talk to them?"

"I'm sure they like me even less than you. Not that I can blame them." He took a long, slow sip of his lemonade. "My father killed their daughter Veronica. I can't even…now that we have Wyatt... I don't think I ever considered what they went through."

That was the thing about grief. Sometimes you got so locked in to dealing with your own loss you never stopped to realize others around you were suffering too. She studied his face.

When she told him Trina came back at the wrong time, she wasn't kidding. This entire thing was taking a toll on Logan. Not only did he have to deal with the reappearance of his sister, but also his past. All while trying to cope with being a new father. Plus all your craziness too, Veronica.

"Do you know where Duncan is?"

How long has he been holding on to that question? "You know he's not an actual suspect, right?"

He sighed. "Duncan fled the country with an infant and has managed to stay hidden for eleven years; he didn't do that without help. Duncan? Not a planner."

"I helped him get across the border to Mexico, but after that…" She shrugged. "It was better for everyone if I didn't know where he was going." Veronica held his gaze, "we've had no contact, at all, since he left." A screaming Wyatt put an end to their conversation. "I'll get her, you finish eating."

Wyatt's face was scrunched and red from the exertion of wailing. She was also sopping wet along with her mattress and the smell from her diaper… Veronica's scrunched face matched the baby. "What's wrong sweet pea? Does your tummy hurt?" She stripped off the soiled footie pajamas and carried Wyatt to the changing table.

Changing a squirming, crying baby was not easy. She started to hum and then sing, "Tura lura lura, Tura lura li, Tura lura lura, hush now don't you cry…over in Killarney, many years ago, my mother sang a song to me, in tones so sweet and low." The baby stopped crying and stared at her. Veronica smiled. "Just a simple little ditty, in her good old Irish way, and I'd give the world to hear her sing, that song of hers today." She zipped up the new clean pajamas and cuddled Wyatt.

"Beautiful." Logan was standing in the doorway, hands shoved in his pockets, watching them. The look in his eyes was the reason she was done running away from him. He joined her in the middle of the room, kissed Wyatt's head and wrapped his arms around both of them. "Let's run away, just the three of us."

Her fingertips trailed along his jaw, "I was just thinking how nice it is to want to stay."

"When you say things like that…" He kissed her forehead. "I love you," he murmured the words against her skin.

"I love you too." She started to pass him the baby, "take Wyatt while I clean up her crib."

"I'll do it, she's probably hungry." Veronica was positive she heard him add "appetite like her mother," but he was the picture of innocence as he stripped the sheet from the crib and washed down the mattress. He disappeared from the room with the dirty items and returned with a fresh crib sheet. After flipping over the mattress, he put on the new sheet and stared at the bed. He was back in that place in his head. His hands gripped the top railing and he took a deep breath. "I'm going to take a walk," is what he said, but he didn't leave.

His demons were chasing him. It made her equal parts angry because she wanted to fight them for him and sad that she didn't know how to comfort him. His dealing with a wet bed was the only thing to change. Why that could pull him into himself was something Veronica didn't want to contemplate. "Logan?" He turned around. "Come sit with us."

He sat on the ottoman, facing them with his knees touching hers. "You really are the best thing to ever happen to me." There was a slight tremble as his fingers grazed Wyatt's cheek. She was done eating and starting to drift back to sleep. Veronica handed her to Logan. Immediately, he nestled her close to his chest and kissed her head.

"You sit with her awhile. I'm going to clean the kitchen." Before leaving the room, she kissed him and turned off the baby monitor. It was about trust. Maybe if she could show him her faith that he would never hurt Wyatt, he would start to believe it about himself. It appears my level of hate for Aaron Echolls knows no bounds.

After loading the dishwasher and cleaning the counters, she got her laptop and headed into the living room. There wasn't anything she could do with a computer concerning the clinic that Mac couldn't do better, but, now knowing it was German, she could at least find out what it meant: small steps. That's really helpful Google, thanks.

Logan came in carrying two cups of coffee and handed her one before sitting on the sofa next to her. He inclined his head toward the computer.

"Kleine Schritte means small steps."

"Zoinks Daphne I think you've solved the case."

Veronica grinned, "and they would've gotten away with it too if it wasn't for us meddling kids." She took a sip of her coffee, "and thanks for making me Daphne."

"She is the hot redhead," he twirled her hair around his finger.

"Cartoon characters aren't hot."

"My teenage self disagrees with you." He leaned back, "Jessica Rabbit, Wonder Woman, Josie and the Pussycats. Mmm, I had fantasies about making them purr." She elbowed him, "hot beverage here."

Veronica typed Porcellian Security into the search engine. The sponsored ads were for ADT, followed by articles about the Porcellian Club and a Wikipedia entry about the same club. She clicked on the link. It really was a men-only final club at Harvard. Theodore Roosevelt and Oliver Wendell Holmes, both junior and senior, were some of their illustrious members. Logan even got the Latin motto right. It was compared to Yale's Skull and Bones and the Ivy Club at Princeton. Ah, the lifestyles of the rich and famous and, in some cases, the infamous. She hit the back button and scrolled through until she found the link to Porcellian Security.

The security company was founded five years ago and it had three office locations; Los Angeles, New York, and Neptune. They didn't deal in home security systems and they weren't interested in providing nighttime security guards for lowly office buildings. No, Clarence Wiedmans's company dealt with the high-end clientele.

They offered private bodyguards for actors and actresses, moguls, visiting dignitaries, and politicians. Movie security for location sets and at the studios, major event security, risk assessment and even a division with kidnap and ransom specialists. Oh, the irony. She was positive Clarence was the one to help Duncan move from Mexico to wherever he'd been living these past years. As Logan said; Duncan was not a planner.

None of this helped her prepare for tomorrow's meeting, but at least she wasn't walking into his offices completely blind. Maybe Mars Investigations could expand to include security? I could totally follow Paris Hilton around as she shopped on Rodeo Drive, but could I trust myself that close to her while carrying a gun? Hmm, maybe not.

"Don't think too hard Mars you might hurt yourself."

He wasn't even looking at her. His head was bent back, resting on top of the sofa and he was staring at the ceiling. "Right back atcha Echolls." She studied him, "hey weren't you supposed to meet Weevil tonight?"

"Canceled."

"You keep canceling plans with him; he's not going to ask you to Prom." That garnered her a slight smile. "Want more coffee?" Head shake.

Veronica searched Conner Larkin. A link to his IMDb profile was first, followed by his Wikipedia page and then a section for recent news. To the right of the screen were various images with a quick bio and a brief listing of his movies including Vector Force Ten with Aaron. One of the images was of him and Trina on the red carpet. "The Oscars are in February right?"

"End of February, early March depending."

"Ever walked the red carpet?"

"Once or twice." He was still staring at the ceiling and she wondered what horrible memories were playing across the white paint.

"It looks like your sister was dating Conner before they started working on the movie. They went to the awards together."

He smirked, "were they seat-fillers?"

"That's really a thing and not just a Seinfeld episode?" She wanted Logan to leave his thoughts and come back to her. That desire and concern was reflected in her voice and it succeed in rousing him from his torpor.

He dropped a hand on the nape of her neck and gently started to rub. "Really a thing," he kissed her shoulder. The random searches were rapidly losing their appeal.

She bumped his leg with her knee as she typed Julie Hanson's name into Google. "Wanna fool around?"

Logan grinned, "are you toying with me?"

"I'm trying." The results page looked the same as Conner's; IMDb, Wikipedia, images, but in the news section there were four article links. The first three were about her death. The last one was dated a few days ago and it read "Julie Hanson obtains three-year restraining order against…" Veronica clicked on the link.

There was a picture of Julie leaving the courthouse with her attorney. The caption under the photo read "Hanson obtains restraining order against stalker." The article was short: Julie Hanson has obtained a three-year restraining order against a stalker who threatened to kill anyone who stood between him and the star. A judge has ordered that Perry McDermott stay 100 yards away from Hanson for the next three years. The twenty-two year old actress secured a temporary order against McDermott earlier this month after she told a Balboa court she feared for her safety. Documents provided to the Court included terrifying emails, letters and social media posts."

A photo of the Notice of Court Hearing, filed in the Balboa County Superior Court was included at the bottom. It set the actual hearing date and granted her a temporary Order until such date. "Ruh-roh."