"He knows because you told him" Veronica's voice crackled over the phone at him, and Logan could almost feel her disapproving glare burning into him.
"Well, yeah, I mean, what was I supposed to do?" he countered, caught a little off-guard by her knowledge of his part in Duncan's finding out about the case files. "He's my best friend."
"Yeah, well, he took my head off. You would have loved it. Have you talked to him since school let out?"
"No, not yet, we were-"
He cut himself off when an angry clattering noise echoed through the earpiece at him. At first he was going to make some mental comment about his not-really-friend's clumsiness, when he was stopped by another alarming sound. "Oh my god, what do you think you're doing?" came the startled sound of the blonde girl's voice, loud even from a distance.
"Let's go for a ride," answered a second- and somewhat familiar –male voice.
Logan was pulled to his feet by the odd happenings at the other end of his phone connection, frowning. "Veronica?" he inquired, feeling an odd tingle around his heart. Like someone was poking it with some sort of pointy object. "Veronica!" he repeated with a little more force, still getting no answer.
Something wasn't right. The alarm in her voice wasn't the only thing worrying Logan. If the guy who'd interrupted them were any sort of friend to her, she'd have responded to him by now. She'd have told the other person to wait a second, picked up her phone, and said good-bye. Instead, she'd left it where she'd dropped it, and Logan was betting it was because she didn't want the intruder to know she had been- and still was -on the phone. Which meant he was a threat to her.
"Veronica, where are you?" he almost yelled into the phone, already halfway across the parking lot. He hadn't spent even a second debating whether or not to go after her. It had been simple reflex. "Veronica!" he barked, though he knew it was no use- she probably couldn't hear him. But if she was any bit the street-savvy girl she acted like, she'd find a way to answer that question.
"Where are we going?" he heard her ask not a minute later, and he paused before starting his vehicle, not wanting the hum of the engine to drown out any response that might help him find her.
"Well, you should know. You must have followed me there," he heard the other guy respond, and at that point Logan identified his voice. It was that new kid. Ben. He hadn't had much personal contact with him, but other people had done much gossiping since his arrival at Neptune High, and so far everything he'd heard had been disturbing at best.
When the thought of him doing anything to Veronica congealed in the back of his mind, hot flames surged through his gut and white rage burned behind his eyes. Logan was filled with the strange but intense desire to hurt this guy; like in that moment his only purpose in life was to protect her by any means possible. It was a confusing feeling, but one he'd have to sort through later. Right now, he really didn't have time for introspection. Not when there was a rescue mission to tend to.
"The Camelot" came the beacon of Veronica's voice, breaking through the angry fog in his mind.
"Yep," Ben confirmed a second later.
And that was all Logan needed. Snapping his phone shut, he wrenched the key in the ignition and brought his car to life, stomping down on the gas pedal the moment it was pulled into gear.
The drive to the Camelot was a blur of green lights and sharp corners. He sprinted through town so fast that the reflection of his bright yellow X-Terra in storefront windows almost couldn't keep up with him. No one from the Neptune Sheriff's Department bothered him throughout the short drive, but he wouldn't have cared if they did. At least then when they got to the motel, he'd have gun-packing reinforcements.
Rubber melted into the asphalt as he screeched into the first parking lot he found within spitting distance of his target destination. His eyes scurried back and forth across the parking lot, but he couldn't find the LeBaron anywhere. Which meant her hijacker had either hidden her car, or they hadn't arrived yet. Logan hoped it was the latter, because then he'd have a better chance of catching the other guy before he managed to pull Veronica into one of the rooms.
Jumping out of his car, he sprinted across the parking lot, slowing down though when he realized he had no idea what room his classmate/terrorist was renting. The fear that had been toying with his heart now clenched its icy fingers tight around it, replacing his fury with a sickening sensation of helplessness. But failure wasn't an option. It couldn't be. He wasn't going to just let Ben do with Veronica whatever it was he had planned.
Digging into his pocket, he pulled out his wallet and leafed through his reserve of cash. A triumphant and relieved smile tickled the edges of his cheeks when he found that the hundred-dollar bill he'd withdrawn a week ago was still there. If there was one thing he'd learned in this world, it was that when dealing with the type of people who were forced to work at a place like this, cash was often a very useful way of prying their lips open.
Stepping through the office door, he cast his eyes to the sky in further thanks when he found a young, not-bad-looking girl sitting behind the counter. Looking up at him, she flipped her hair back with a broad smile. "Hey," she said, hopping off the stool she'd been perched on.
"Hi," Logan said, flashing his best, most glowing grin in her direction. "Um, I was wondering if you might be able to help me. I'm supposed to meet my friend here, but he never told me what room he's staying in. I tried calling him but he's got his cell phone turned off. Do you think you could tell me where to find him?"
"Oh, um," she winced, looking quite disappointed by the fact that she wasn't going to be able to help him. "I'm really not supposed to give out that kind of information."
"Yeah, but who's gonna know?" he asked, adding a little mischievous twinkle to his gaze. "Besides," he added, leaning forward with both palms flattened against the counter. "If you were to tell me, I promise it'd be worth your while," he said, drumming his fingers loudly against the surface and looking down at them.
The girl glanced down when he did, and at that point saw the green and white slip of paper peeking out from under his hand, her eyes widening when she also noticed the one and two zeros printed in its corner. "Uh…" she said, obviously debating whether her moral standards as an employee were worth a hundred dollars or not. "What did you say your friend's name is?"
"Ben," he answered, excited to see he was making some progress. "I don't know his last name though."
"That's okay," desk-girl shrugged, turning to the computer beside her. After a few seconds of searching through, a frown wrinkled her forehead. "Uh oh," she muttered, catching his attention.
"What? What is it?" he inquired, somewhat frantic as he leaned over the counter to get a better look at the screen.
"We don't have anyone here registered under that name," she said, just as puzzled by the news as Logan was.
So the guy was using a fake name. Great. "Oh. Okay," he muttered, looking over his shoulder at the multiple rows of rooms Veronica could be trapped in. He turned to go, but was stopped by the girl's desperate voice.
"Wait!" she pleaded, not wanting him and his hundred dollars to leave just yet. Logan hesitated, pivoting back around. "Look, we've only got six rooms rented out right now," she said, studying her computer screen. "Two of them are registered to women, one is to a family of four, and one of the others is to a sixty-year-old man," she said, browsing over the motel's guest list for a moment longer. "I'd say your best bet is to check out room two-twenty-seven," she suggested. "It's right outside, up the stairs."
"Two-twenty-seven" Logan repeated the number. "Thanks," he said with a pleased smile, reaching out his hand to shake hers.
"No problem," replied the other girl as she felt the money slip into her hand.
Turning on his heel, he yanked the office door open, not even bothering to close it behind him as he bolted for the stairs. Taking them two at a time, he caught sight of the room he was searching for as soon as he reached the top. Quick strides brought him to the door, and he tried the knob, knocking and calling out his friend's name at the same time. Getting no response, he then looked in the nearest windows, but still couldn't tell if she was inside or not.
Backing up, he was in the process of debating whether or not to kick down the door when he heard a car pulling into the parking lot. One glance behind him confirmed that it was Veronica's car, and the sight pumped a cool, soothing balm of relief through his veins. He ducked behind the corner made by the room opposite to Ben's though, knowing that when dealing with a guy like this, having surprise on his side was probably a good bet.
He listened to them climb out of the car then trudge their way up the staircase. "Why can't we do it someplace public? Frappucino anyone? My treat," he heard Veronica saying, slightly amused by her attitude. He couldn't think of many other girls who wouldn't be sobbing for mercy at in a situation like this.
"I know you think you're being a hero, but a lot of people might die 'cause of you," he heard Ben respond, able to tell from the loudness of his voice and the proximity of their footsteps that they were now within only a yard of Logan's hiding place. Fist clenching, blood boiling in his arteries, he waited one more second before jumping out from his hiding place. Putting the strength of every fiber in his arm behind it, he drove the club of his hand into the teenager's face.
Ben didn't even stumble backwards; instead he just dropped to the ground, landing against the concrete with a dull thud. Out of his peripheral vision, Logan saw Veronica get thrown to the side. That hardly calmed the inferno smoldering within him though. Crouching down next to the perpetrator, he hauled him up by the lapels of his jacket and slammed his fist into his face, not even caring where it landed. Again and again, he felt his knuckles crunch as they crashed into bone, stopping only when he heard Veronica command him to do so.
"Logan stop!" her voice rang through his ears, halting his third- or fourth, he wasn't really counting –downward thrust. Eyes softening as he turned to face her, he was met by the sight of a gold badge. "He's a federal agent," she explained with a relieved sigh.
Logan held his position for a moment longer, trying to process everything that had happened over the past two minutes, let alone the past half hour. "Let him go," Veronica prompted in a soft voice, noticing the trance he was in. Not even bothering to look back at Ben, or even mutter an apology, he dropped the body in his hands and stood up, closing what little distance was separating him from the blonde girl.
"Did he hurt you?" he asked, hands cupping her shoulders as he looked her over for any signs of trauma.
"No. I mean, my arm's a little sore," she said, twisting it around. "But other than that…" she said, trailing off. Eyes wandering sideways, she watched Ben pull himself up, using the railing for help. "Are you okay?" she asked him, stepping out of Logan's loose embrace to approach him.
"I'm not sure," he said, pressing tentative fingers against his chin and cheek. "I'll let you know as soon as I get the feeling back in my jaw," he muttered, casting an accusatory glance in Logan's direction.
"Hey, if I was going to apologize I'd have done it already," the other teenager said, tone blunt and without an ounce of remorse.
"Is this your room?" Veronica asked Ben, motioning to the nearest door.
"Yeah. Do you have a minute to come inside?" he asked, pulling out the key.
"Uh-huh," she nodded, still sounding a little shaken up.
As Ben moved past her to unlock the door, Logan followed behind him, deliberately placing himself between the two of them. Able to feel the tall teenager towering over him, the government agent turned around. "I'd rather you didn't come in."
"Well, that's fine because I don't remember asking for your permission, Big Ben," Logan shot back, unruffled by the other guy's position of authority.
"No, you don't understand," he said in that condescending, policeman style tone. "What I have to discuss with Veronica is classified informa-"
"And you don't understand that I don't care what you have to say," he interrupted, inching forward, using his height to his advantage as he stared down at the shorter man. "Veronica's not stepping through this door unless I do too," he said in as threatening a tone as he could muster.
Ben looked to the girl in question for help, but she seemed a little too shocked by her comrade's protective attitude to offer any sort of input. "Fine," he muttered, seeing that there was no way around the teenager's demand. Not without further violence, at least, and he wasn't in much condition to be fighting.
"Wait here for a sec, okay?" Logan asked Veronica, shuffling through the motel door on Ben's heels. Taking a look around the room, he decided there was nothing unsafe about it. One hand on his hip, he used the other one to point at the bed. "Sit down," he ordered, almost hoping the older guy wouldn't listen and thus give him reason to get rough again.
But Ben did as he was told, taking a seat at the foot of the bed. Logan then cast a glance in the direction of the door, nodding for Veronica to come in. He still made sure to use of his body as a barrier though, keeping himself between her and the agent at all times.
"Do you mind if I get up for a second?" Ben asked once the three of them had more or less settled into the room.
"Yeah, I do," Logan responded, the tone of his voice signifying that the matter would not be up for negotiation.
"I'd like to get a cloth for my face," he tried to argue anyway, motioning at the bathroom.
"I'll get it," Veronica offered, deciding she didn't really feel like seeing any more displays of male dominance in the near future.
Logan followed her as she crossed to the bathroom, leaning against the wall once she stepped inside. A few seconds later Ben turned to look in their direction, and the teenager made sure that the first thing Agent Boy saw was his displeased, venomous glare. He made a point of opening then clenching his right hand, shaking out the appendage he'd used to inflict the now bruising marks on the other guy's face.
Straightening up, he poked his head around the corner to check on Veronica. Realizing she might chew him out later on for being so over-bearing, he wandered to the other side of the room, stopping to look out the window.
"You're undercover at Neptune High?" he heard her ask, watching as she offered Ben a watered-down cloth.
Before answering, he cast a weary gaze in Logan's direction, touching the moist cloth to his split lip. "Is it all right if he goes outside? I'd like to talk to you," he requested, regurgitating his desire to keep whatever information he had private.
"Dream on, Jump Street," Logan spoke up from the window. "I'm not leaving you alone with her."
Veronica then walked over, coming to a rest beside him. "Logan, he's the real thing," she said softly. "Just give us a minute, all right?" she asked.
Unlocking his gaze from the vertically challenged man on the other side of the room, though not before giving him one last menacing smirk, he looked down to the ground. "Fine," he said, relenting. "Don't close the door all the way," he said, pointing at the rectangular object on the way over to it. "Yeah, I'll be right out here," he insisted, wrist flicking as he pointed at it again, giving Veronica a meaningful glance to emphasize the fact that he wasn't going anywhere until she joined him on the other side.
Stepping out onto the walkway, feeling fresh air wash over his face, he paced back and forth for one or two strides before leaning against the railing. A few deep breaths shuddered through him as he tried to clear his mind, wanting to make space so he could sort out everything that had happened since the end of the school day.
The events themselves had been extraordinary enough. Veronica had gotten kidnapped. Her abductor had at first seemed to be a bomb-crazed lunatic, but then turned out to be a government agent. A government agent who he'd beaten senseless after bribing a motel clerk into telling him where to find him.
All of it on its own was enough to process. Even more confusing though were his reactions to the situations. Logan was still a little surprised to find himself here. Over the past year, he'd been in the sort of mindset where if someone had told him that Veronica Mars was in trouble, his response would have been something akin to, "well, that's her own fault."
But lately, he'd been seeing a different side of the short, blonde, teenage detective. When he'd asked her to help find his mother, she'd been nothing but supportive of his endeavor. She did everything she could to help find his mother. She was there for him every step of the way, acting as an unconditional pillar of support each time they got a step closer to finding out what had really happened to Lynn Echolls. On the day when they finally discovered that all of his searching was hopeless, she'd held him close, offering soft words and a soothing hand against his back until he stopped sobbing.
And in the end, she'd asked for nothing in return. She'd been his guardian throughout the whole ordeal, but had done so with enough discreteness that he hadn't even noticed. Slowly and secretly, over the past couple of weeks, she'd managed to remind him that the Veronica he'd known and liked before Lilly's death still existed, but was now just hidden beneath a hardened protective shell.
So when he'd heard her cry out in distress just a short while ago, something deep within him was brought to life. A feeling of fierce protectiveness clamped its jaws around his entire being and wouldn't let go until he made sure she was safe. The thought of someone hurting her was one he just could not bear to accept. Not after everything she'd done for him.
Logan didn't even care that he'd busted up a federal agent's face in the process. The way he saw it, whatever injury he'd inflicted was Ben's own fault. He could've told Veronica what was really going on at any point during their drive over to the Camelot. It would've saved her a lot of terror, and Ben a lot of pain.
Letting go of the railing, he stepped back to lean against the wall, inhaling and exhaling a long, relaxing sigh of contentment. After all, there was no more need to worry. He'd gotten there in time. True, there hadn't been any real threat, but if there had been, he was satisfied in knowing that he would've saved her.
As thousands of thoughts and worries continued buzzing through his mind, that was the one that he kept reminding himself of.
Veronica was okay.
Veronica was okay, and for that reason alone, so was he.