"Well, Bob, unless the DA has some kind of smoking gun, I think this could turn into a he said/he said case. It's all just going to come down to whether the jury finds Aaron Echolls or Logan Echolls more believable."
"Thank you, we appreciate your insight. That was legal expert Nancy Grace for Fox News. Back to you, Laura."
"A video?" Veronica asked incredulously.
"Yeah—I found the camera a few days earlier, just by accident. I don't even want to know why he put it in." Logan made a face. "But after you guys dropped me off that day, I realized that if I got him to go after me while I was in the pool house, it would all end up on tape. Your dad and his deputies found it before I was even taken away in the ambulance."
"He never told me," Veronica said.
"He probably can't discuss the details with you, since you're a witness," Logan replied. "Please don't tell him any of this. Whether I antagonized my dad or not doesn't matter—he'd done that to me before and he was going to do it again if I didn't stop him. The video will just make sure that there's no question about what he did."
"So why is the DA letting the media stomp all over you? Why doesn't he tell them about the video?"
"He has to subpoena the credit card records that show that my dad had the camera installed himself—to prove that he wasn't taped without his knowledge, or something like that."
"You mean the video might not even be admissible?" Veronica looked horrified.
"It will be—I know it will."
"I hope you're right."
"And you can't tell anyone—not even Lilly, OK?" Logan pleaded.
Veronica nodded. "Your secret is safe with me," she said, making a zipping motion across her lips. "If that's what you had to do to take down the bad guy, then that's what you had to do. I still don't like it though."
"I'm really sorry about dragging you into it," he continued. "I needed someone who wouldn't freak out—someone who would know what to do and call the cops right away. It had to be you. I knew you would do the right thing."
"Um, thanks?" Veronica said with a slight laugh. "I'm glad I lived up to your expectations, but you're gonna owe me."
The bell rang, and moments later, their classmates began spilling out of the doors. Logan and Veronica gathered up their belongings and walked together to meet their respective parents in the parking lot.
They saw Sheriff Mars first, since his squad car was a lot easier to spot than Lynn's intentionally nondescript gray Corolla. Keith walked with them to join Logan's mother at her car.
"How are you holding up, Lynn?"
"As well as can be expected, I suppose," she said, removing her sunglasses. "Darryl Jackson has been wonderful through all of this."
"He's a good DA and a good man," Keith confirmed. "But if there's anything I can do to help, please give me a call."
As their parents talked, Logan saw Veronica watching her dad lovingly, and a pang of jealousy poked at the inside of his chest. She turned her eyes toward him, and he covered quickly by giving her a wink.
AMIGOS…OR ALLIES? National Enquirer photographers snapped Logan Echolls and his mother, Lynn, socializing with the sheriff who arrested Aaron Echolls. Sources at the high school confirm that the young Mr. Echolls, who has accused his father of child abuse, is close friends with the sheriff's daughter, who is also a witness in the case. Could Aaron's family be colluding with pals in law enforcement?
School got better as the students became accustomed to his presence—and the bruises on his face had begun to fade to a dull yellow, which probably helped. His relationship with Lilly seemed to be defrosting too, so on his fourth day back at school, Logan walked into the building with a spring in his step. As he walked toward his locker, he saw Veronica headed his way and held up his hand in greeting.
She walked right toward him, but didn't even glance in his direction—she brushed against him and kept walking. He was about to call after her, and then he noticed a tightly folded piece of paper stuck to the peeling tape on his fingers. Smiling to himself, Logan swiftly pulled it off with his other hand and stuffed it in his pocket. After he'd settled himself into his desk for his next class, he pulled it out and read: "2nd floor girls' bathroom, between 2nd and 3rd period."
When he showed up as instructed, the bathroom door had an "Out of Order" sign on it. Using the metal edge of the finger splint he had to wear for another week, he tapped lightly on the door. There was no answer, so he slowly pushed the door open and stepped in.
He looked around, and was marveling at how much cleaner the girls' bathroom was than the boys' when he noticed a tiny pair of pink Keds under one of the stall doors.
"Veronica?" he whispered loudly.
The door swung open and she peeked out. "Hey."
"What's going on? Are you mad at me again?" Logan dropped his backpack on the counter.
"No!" Veronica replied quickly. "No, I'm not mad. Didn't the DA talk to you last night?"
"I got a voicemail, but I haven't called him back yet. What's up?"
Veronica's face fell. "He doesn't think it's a good idea if we're seen 'socializing' anymore," she said, using air-quotes for the word the tabloid had used. "Not even here. Everyone is watching you, including our classmates, so he thinks it looks bad for the case if people think we're friends."
Logan rubbed his eyes in frustration. "That sucks."
"Yeah, it does," she agreed.
"I don't have very many people I can talk to these days," Logan said, pulling at his sleeves. "Lilly never wants to talk about anything but the next party, DK is still keeping his distance, and everyone else? I don't know who I can trust and who's going to run to the tabloids if I say anything. I don't want to lose you too."
Veronica nodded sadly but then perked up. "It's just for a few more weeks until the trial, right?"
"I guess…" he replied with a kick at the linoleum flooring.
"Until then, we can meet here! I'll leave the 'out of order' sign on top of the tampon machine, and then we can just pass notes anytime we want to meet up. Come on, it'll be fun!"
Logan had to smile at her enthusiasm for the cloak-and-dagger scenario. "Yeah, that'll work, I think."
"And whatever any stupid gossip reporter says, you have to know that I believe you, one hundred percent, and I'm going to stand by you in this. Y'know, metaphorically anyway."
"'Metaphorically'? Big word. You've been studying for your PSATs."
"Oh crap," Veronica said, slapping her forehead. "I'm late for English."
BLIND ITEM: Which princess of a software kingdom is taking up with the crown prince of the airline industry? Is she trying to keep out of the dirty dungeon of scandal surrounding her current consort?
"I was mad at you," Lilly replied dismissively. "But I'm not anymore, so it doesn't matter."
"Lilly, you made out with him for an hour in front of everyone at Madison's party last weekend. It matters. We were arguing—we weren't broken up."
"Come on," Lilly purred, slipping her arms around his neck. "Can't you forgive me?"
Looking at her big blue eyes and soft lips, Logan saw a pattern come into sharp focus. "No, I can't," he said as he pushed her arms away.
A small crowd of students was starting to form, and he knew they were hoping to witness another round of fireworks from him and Lilly. Lilly seemed to be enjoying the attention, but he tried to ignore it.
Lilly pouted. "I just made a little mistake. Let's just forget about it. Just this once?"
"Once?" Logan scoffed. "Do you think the concussion gave me memory loss?"
She tried to slip her hand into his and he pulled his hand back, shoving it into his pocket.
"This isn't how I want to live anymore, Lill," he said calmly. "It's always the same. I'm not going to keep running back to you."
Her eyes opened wide in surprise at his response.
"I'm always begging for crumbs from you, and you keep giving me just enough to keep me on a leash. But I'm done with that. Forgiving you over and over doesn't change anything about the way you treat me, so I'm not doing it this time. I'm not letting anyone treat me like their dog anymore. Not even you."
With that, he simply turned and walked away.
SHOCKING PHOTOS INSIDE! See the photos taken of Logan Echolls at the hospital the night of his fight with his father – a Star Magazine exclusive! Also: What's next for Lynn Echolls' movie career?
"Even that's not convincing some people. When those pictures got out, I kind of hoped it would get some people thinking, but the crazies are still building 'Free Aaron' shrines outside the front gate of our house!" Logan slouched against the stall divider and watched Veronica as she leaned across the sink to check her mascara in the mirror.
Veronica shook her head in disbelief. "And women send love letters to convicted serial killers. There's just no swaying the insane, I guess."
"Yeah, he'll probably still get fan mail when he's in prison."
Her forehead wrinkled with concern. "How can you be that sure? What if he gets off? He seems to be doing a pretty good job so far of convincing the world that he's the wronged party here."
"The judge has to allow that video. The DA says he can't imagine anyone finding him innocent after seeing that. I mean, we've got that, we've got your testimony, your dad, my mom, the pictures the cops took at the hospital… but it's all about that video. It's why I did this…" His hands started to shake and he tucked them under his arms to still them.
Veronica wrapped her arms around Logan and he rested his head on hers. "This has to work, Veronica. I risked everything—it can't be for nothing. It has to work," he whispered into her hair.
"…Since the Aaron Echolls child abuse case began, it all seemed to hinge on a video taken of the incident, which was the police department's key evidence against Echolls. However, no one outside the police station or district attorney's office had seen the video—until now. Inside Edition has obtained a copy of the footage, which clearly shows Aaron Echolls viciously beating his 15-year-old son, Logan, as the boy begs him to stop. We must warn you that this video is quite graphic. Parental discretion is advised..."
"You can stay home today, sweetheart—you're going to miss class all next week because of the trial anyway."
Logan thought about the pitying looks he was bound to get from his classmates, and briefly considered his mother's offer. But he also knew today would be his last chance to see Veronica before the trial.
"Ah, that's all right. I need to get all my books anyway, so I can keep up on the reading and stuff."
"OK, honey, I'll see you at 3 then." She ruffled his hair as he got out of the car.
"Hey!" he yelled, playfully pushing her hands away. He waved as she pulled out of the parking lot, and saw three cars full of reporters continue their pursuit as soon as she got to the street.
As he walked into school, Logan tried to avoid people's glances, although he did stop to say hi to Meg. They hadn't really been friends before, but ever since his abuse had been made public, she went out of her way to be kind. She even helped him catch up in the few classes they shared.
On his way to his first class, Logan mentally reviewed his schedule for the day, trying to figure out the best time to meet with Veronica. While he was lost in thought, he was nearly yanked off his feet when he was pulled into an empty classroom. He let out an embarrassingly high-pitched yelp.
"Veronica, what the hell?" he said, breathing hard. "I'm tense enough already—don't startle me like that!"
"I'm sorry," she said, on the verge of tears. "I just didn't want to wait until later today. I had to make sure you knew that my dad did not release that video to the media!"
"Hey, shhh," he said soothingly, resting his hand on her shoulder. "I know. I know he wouldn't do that. One of those jackholes who work for him might have, but I know he didn't."
Veronica released a shuddering breath. "I could barely sleep last night. I was afraid you'd think—"
"No, I never thought that. My mom didn't either. Besides, if your dad had just gotten a big payoff, would he still be driving you to school in the squad car? No way—limo time, baby."
She giggled through her tears. "OK, good. I'm glad you don't blame me…him. He's going to find out who did it, you know. The photos too."
"I know. Wait a second—" He held up his index finger just as the bell rang.
Veronica laughed again, wiping her eyes. "How do you do that?"
"It's a gift. Bathroom, after lunch?"
"It's a date."
"…In a pre-trial ruling, the judge in the Aaron Echolls child abuse case has ruled that video from cameras at the Echolls estate can be admitted into evidence. Balboa County district attorney Darryl Jackson says that the video provides incontrovertible proof of Logan Echolls' version of events. A spokesperson for Aaron Echolls' attorney had no comment…"
Logan watched as Veronica's legs dangled from her perch on the bathroom counter. The media frenzy around his case was ramping up as the trial date approached, and he really looked forward to his clandestine meetings with Veronica. Sometimes they talked about the trial, but most of the time they talked about everyday things: school, movies, music… The meetings were a little island of sanity in the madness of Logan's life.
They had even developed a system of hand signals that was more efficient than notes for communicating when one of them wanted to get together: Three fingers meant they'd meet after third period, four fingers meant after fourth period, and so on—but the second floor girls' bathroom was always the meeting place. Lately, he'd been feeling a little adrenaline rush whenever he saw her surreptitiously waggling her numbered fingers at him.
"So—next week, huh? Then once the trial is all over, we can go back to talking in the halls and on the phone like normal people."
"I don't know, I kind of like meeting in secret. It's like we're carrying on an illicit affair or something," Logan said with a smirk. To his surprise, Veronica blushed hotly.
"I should get going," she said, hopping off the counter suddenly. "The bell is going to ring any second."
"Yeah, OK." Logan turned around to pick his backpack up off the floor, and when he stood up again, he found himself inadvertently blocking her exit. He stepped aside at the same time she did, so that they were still facing each other. Then they both made the same movement in the opposite direction.
"Wanna dance?" Logan joked.
She giggled, her face again flushing red from embarrassment. As she looked up at him, for a moment, she looked as though she were going to kiss him—and Logan realized that he wanted her to. Instead, she gave him a quick hug, slipped past him, and ran out the door. Logan was left to stare at his own stunned expression in the mirror.
"We interrupt your current program to bring you this breaking report: Movie star and Oscar winner Aaron Echolls has been found guilty of all charges in the case involving the abuse of his son, Logan. We repeat, Aaron Echolls has been found guilty. Courtroom observers report that the boy and his mother, actress Lynn Echolls, wept and embraced upon hearing the verdict. They said nothing to Aaron as he was led away in handcuffs…
… The jury deliberated for only three hours, returning with the guilty verdict just minutes ago. Experts who followed the trial are saying that the video footage, which apparently was from a hidden camera installed by Aaron Echolls himself, was the key to his conviction. Right now, we're on the courthouse steps, waiting for Logan and Lynn Echolls to come out…"
Logan opened the door of the condo to find a young boy standing there.
"Is that really you?"
The boy pulled off the baseball cap and shook out a head of long, blonde hair. "In the flesh!" Veronica jumped forward into his arms, hugging Logan tightly. "I'm so happy for you. I wanted to talk to you afterward, but the reporters—"
"I know. But it still helped just to know you were there." He gave her a quick squeeze and let her go so he could close the door. "Damn, Veronica, you should go into undercover work. I never would have known you were you!" he added as he looked over her disguise.
"The hordes of reporters downstairs didn't know either, and that's what counts." Veronica took off her black and orange backpack and unzipped her baseball jacket as she transformed back into a teenage girl. "It's a good thing I never had the heart to get rid of this Padres junk my dad keeps buying me. So? How does it feel?"
Logan stretched his arms up high. "It feels great—people always say it feels like a weight was lifted off them, but I think that cliché exists for a reason. I feel lighter. I don't have to walk on eggshells anymore—I don't have to worry that he's going to walk in and catch me doing something that I didn't even know was wrong. I'm still a little jumpy, but it's just hard to believe that it's over."
"Where's your mom?" Veronica asked as she kicked off her shoes.
"She just left for her agent's house. His wife wanted to have a celebratory dinner, but I bailed so I could hang out with you."
"Are you sure you don't want to be with your mom? I can—"
"Nuh-uh, you're staying. The pizza's already here, and I can't finish it without you to do your share."
Veronica started walking toward the kitchen. "Then why am I talking to you when there's melted cheese cooling off as we speak?" She took out the plates while Logan got cans of soda out of the refrigerator.
"They're just going to end up talking business anyway," Logan added. "Every talk show in town wants an interview, and movie producers are already calling."
"Huh. What do you think about that?" Veronica used her thumb and forefinger to break the string of cheese hanging from the slice of pizza she was lifting from the box.
"It's fine—she loves acting, but she hasn't had any offers in a long time." Logan grabbed the napkins and the two headed for the living room. "A sit-down with Larry King or Barbara Walters could put her back in demand, and if something good can come out of this for her, then I'm all for it. I just want her to be happy again."
"What about you?" Veronica asked as she reclined on the couch. "The talk shows probably want you too."
"Not gonna happen. I'm so sick of being in the public eye, I just want to let this all fade away." Logan reached down and scooped up Veronica's legs, laying them across his lap so he could sit closer to her.
"Maybe doing an interview on one of the big shows would make the rest of them stop bugging you though," Veronica said, trying to speak around a mouthful of pepperoni and green pepper.
Logan shook his head. "I don't want to feed the monster. I want to go back to my normal life and wait for the paparazzi to lose interest in me."
SPOTTED! After being out of sight during the weeks since his father's trial, Logan Echolls was seen canoodling at a local coffee shop with Veronica Mars, daughter of the local sheriff and a material witness in Aaron Echolls' child abuse trial. Friends of the pair tell US Weekly that Logan and Veronica have been a couple since shortly after the trial. Could the Echolls family tragedy have a happy ending after all?