DISCLAIMER: I don't own any rights to Veronica Mars. This story is written as a tribute only. No celebrity endorsement is implied by product placements. All real persons' names are used in the sense of "wouldn't it be cool if this person had this gig?" The institution discussed in this fic is not a real institution. No harm or insult is intended to any real-life organizations or to any participants in the meetings of these organizations. Again, this fic is not intended for those under the age of 17.

A/N: Beta-ed by Poniesforall and Kazy. Any remaining errors are my responsibility.


Previously on 'The Year of Living Dangerously': Veronica vows that she's quitting the detective business so she'll never cause one of her friends to be hurt again; Logan worries that she'll eventually hate her life and despise him for letting her do this, and maybe even blame him for all their old arguments about her taking risks. He's tempted to try to push her back into investigating, but Keith counsels him not to, and Logan reluctantly agrees. All her friends are concerned that Veronica is making permanent changes in her life while she is still recovering from her trauma, but they reluctantly accede to her wishes. Veronica herself admits that she's not being rational and can't even figure out what would make her happy.

When a reporter starts nosing around the story of Duncan's affair with Kendall, Duncan hires Keith to find out who killed her. Keith enlists Wallace and Mac's help. Veronica suspects something's going on, and, instead of just asking, she snoops and plants a bug in her dad's office, still insisting to her friends that she's intent on changing her life. When she retrieves the recording device from her dad's office, Logan responds to her adrenaline buzz, and they have wild sex, with Logan encouraging Veronica be on top.


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VERONICA MARS
10:00PM SHO ch: 340 60min 2009 TV-MA
Gut Reaction
Logan has a nightmare; Veronica goes to
physical therapy; Veronica reacts predictably.
Veronica: Kristen Bell. Logan: Jason Dohring.
Keith: Enrico Colantoni. Wallace: Percy Daggs
III. Eli: Francis Capra. John: Brian Hallisay.
Aide: Janelle Velasquez.
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CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FORTY-EIGHT: "GUT REACTION"

Wed. 4/22/09: very early, Sunset Cliffs Apartment, Neptune, CA

Logan wakes up suddenly. The light is dim in the bedroom; it's still very early. It's quiet...too quiet. He rolls over, but she's not in the bed. "Veronica?" He gets up and walks to her desk. No note. Where is she? He grabs his shorts from the floor and stops dead. The closet door is slightly ajar. He rushes over and throws open the door: the closet is completely empty. Every item is gone, except for a couple of his shirts and a pair of his jeans hanging from a hook. He pushes the shirts aside, and the wire hangers jangle loudly.

Suddenly it seems really important to get dressed. He puts on his jeans and a T-shirt and shoves his feet into his sneakers. He checks the bathroom; all that's left is his shaving gear and toothbrush. Out in the kitchen, he pulls open the drawers...empty, except for some crumbs...a butter knife...a box of matches. There's a jar of mustard and some moldy olives in the refrigerator. He whirls around. There are sheets draped over the furniture in the living room.

"Veronica? Keith?"

He walks outside. It's dazzling and brilliant, the sun shining high in the sky. People are going about their business in the apartment complex, ignoring him. He nods at Veronica's neighbor—fucking old biddy, always giving me the evil eye—and she scuttles away as if afraid. In the parking lot, he finds Veronica's Saturn and pops open the locks. There's a fine layer of dust on the dash, and the car smells like old dirty socks.

He starts the car and heads up the PCH to Los Angeles. It seem like he's driving forever...he passes the same car three times. What the fuck? When he finally gets to Venice Beach, he drives around the block looking for paparazzi. The coast is clear, and he pulls into the driveway of his house.

Once inside, he calls out again, "Veronica? Are you here?" The house is immaculate, every throw pillow in perfect position, every framed and matted photograph square and even. He walks out onto the deck; his surfboard is leaning against the wall next to the outdoor shower. The beach is deserted, the waves crashing at a high tide well above the usual high water mark. He kicks off his shoes and wades in, ignoring the water soaking his jeans. The tide runs out, the shifting sand dissolving beneath his feet. He squints over the water at the setting sun partially obscured by clouds. The ocean is dark and turbulent as far as the eye can see.

He turns around and walks back to the deck and into the house, his jeans tracking in a trail of wet sand on the perfect white carpet. He sits down on the couch. On the coffeetable is a neat stack of DVDs: he looks through them...every one a porno flick with a hardcore image on the cover. There is another pile of PSP and XBox games, with Grand Theft Auto XIX on top. And in the center of the table...splayed open with the spine broken from hard use, a hardcover book: "My Life as a Modern Day Mata Hari in the FBI" by Veronica Mars. He turns to the inside front cover and reads, "To Logan. Best wishes, Veronica."

Veronica shakes him awake. "Hey...hey...you're dreaming. Logan?"

He tries to smile as he looks nervously around the room at the accumulation of stuff...their folded laundry on the chair, her school work messily piled on the desk, her favorite picture of them slightly askew above a stack of books. And Veronica right in front of him, her warm body pressed against his. "Wow. Really bad dream."

"Gonna tell me about it?"

"Zombies," he lies. "Just like '28 Days Later'."

"Ooh, scary. Sandra Bullock always creeps me out." Then she laughs, making him smile despite himself. Veronica adds, "Sorry, couldn't resist."

"You're in a good mood," he comments, grabbing her and pulling her on top of him.

"Don't tell anyone, but...." She pretends to look around before continuing in a conspiratorial whisper, "I got laid last night."

"Anybody I know?"

"Some guy." Veronica shrugs dramatically.

"Gonna call him?"

"We'll see."

He pretends to sigh. "You broads, with your callous love-em-and-leave-em attitude."

"Breaking hearts wherever we go," she agrees.

"You don't know the half of it," he says.

Wed. 4/22/09: noon, Neptune Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, Neptune, CA

A few hours later, Logan stops the car, idling at the curb as Veronica grabs her stuff for physical therapy. "You sure you're okay today?"

"What?"

"You're not upset with me about last night, are you?" he says nervously. "I'm sorry if I was too rough—"

She leans over and kisses him hard. "Are you kidding? That was incredible."

"You seem different today, Veronica. What's up with you? Did something happen?"

"I just have something on my mind." Like...what could be on those recordings sitting on my iPod. Veronica had fidgeted her way through two lectures this morning. She's quite sure that her notes from the classes will be nonsensical, and she hopes that she didn't miss anything important while she was doodling. Twice, she pulled out her iPod and thought about sneaking the earbuds into her ears...but Professor MacAvoy's policy on students caught listening to music during lectures had been demonstrated to her several times.

What's crazy is...she wants to tell Logan exactly what's going on. Veronica is dying to tell him what she's done, but even she knows this is insane. What the hell am I doing? The temptation to confess to bugging her dad is killing her.

"You're sure?" Logan is still a little unnerved by the visions from his desolate nightmare that morning. He touches her shoulder, almost as if to reassure himself that she really is right in front of him. At her smile, he compulsively pulls her into a tight hug and whispers, "I just loved seeing you look so strong and sexy last night."

"What you're saying is you liked letting me do all the work," she teases.

"Yeah, that's what I meant," he says agreeably. "I'll see you in a couple hours. Work hard on your exercises, sweetcheeks. Listen to the nice physical therapist."

"You mean my torturer, right?" she says wryly. "No pain, no gain. See ya."

He watches her walk up to the front door with eyes narrowed. She's moving much better today, with a spring in her step that he hasn't seen since before Briar Hill. Maybe she's just hurting less. What possessed me to throw her around like that yesterday? He drives off to run a few errands Keith had asked him to perform while she works on her rehab. As he spins the wheel to exit the parking lot, he catches himself tapping nervously on the steering wheel and forces himself to stop.

The aide checks Veronica in and gets her set up on a treatment table in a private room with a heating pad and 'stim', an electrotherapy pain modality. The electrodes attached to the painful points in her shoulder begin to jump with tiny jolts of electricity, and Veronica snuggles the earbuds in her ear and turns up the volume on her iPod.

The bug is sound-activated, so almost every useful track begins in the middle of a word. Once activated, the bug keeps recording for ten minutes before shutting down to save battery life and disc space on the digital voice recorder. She hadn't dared to put the bug actually on her dad's desk, so she had had to put the sensitivity level to its highest setting, which meant that every car horn, ambulance siren, or even the occasional cholo lowrider blasting Mexican top forty passing by the building had triggered the device. She fast-forwards through four or five such useless tracks.

Phone call. A deadbeat client, sounds like. She hits the 'forward' button. Dad's calling Wallace...no, leaving a message. Something about the 'live-out' staff, a cook and a personal shopper...two names, Sharon Taub and Joannie Larang...a suggestion to try to talk to Sharon at her gym and Joannie at her favorite bar over the weekend. Guess Dad ran their credit card bills. 'I'm emailing you their photos...let me know what you find out.' She listens again but can't discern any more information on what Wallace is working on.

There is a long stretch of simple ambient noise punctuated by an occasional soft shuffle of papers. A loud thunk—the stapler?—the soft whir of a file drawer being opened, a pause, the drawer being closed; then a few minutes later, the same sequence again. Dad's working on paperwork. She randomly checks a few seconds here and there and skips ahead. Aha, here we go...a client meeting...a messy divorce, three kids, the wife suspects an affair with the neighbor. Sordid, just the way we like it.

And then...jackpot. Mac meeting with Dad.

MAC: —ster Mars.
DAD: Mac. How are you doing? How are your classes going?
MAC: Better every day, Mr. Mars. The professors are being really cool.
DAD: How are your mom and dad holding up?
MAC: They like the new house a lot, but I guess there's some hassles with the insurance. They were arguing the other night. I wish ...[garbled]...

Veronica rewinds and listens again, but the section is still garbled. She frowns.

DAD: Let me know if I can help. I'd be happy to help your parents look over the paperwork and negotiate with the insurance company for them. I've learned a few tricks over the years. Maybe I even know someone at their carrier.
MAC: That'd be great. Mr. Mars, I took a look at the server files at Neptune Alarmco, and I found...[garbled]...interesting.
[silence, sound of papers rustling]
DAD: What am I looking at?
MAC: Someone was accessing the server repeatedly right here. On March 7. ...I think they were running an algorithm to replicate the passcode...[garbled]....
DAD: That's even possible?
MAC: It's pretty slick. High level programming. Someone was aware of a security vulnerability ...[garbled]... system.
DAD: Can you trace the hacker? You know this is completely out of my area of expertise.
MAC: There was a security patch, pretty recent it looked like. And there was a flaw in the coding of the patch. And then the hacker had a way in.
DAD: I'm not sure I understand.
MAC: I think the security patch deliberately created a gateway for someone to access ...[garbled].... Mr. Mars, this was not an amateur hacker, not ....[garbled].
DAD: Or they paid someone who was a pro. Someone who owed them something. Maybe there was more involved ...[garbled]...we're talking five million dollars, you know?
MAC: Yeah, you might be right. I want to keep working on it, see if I can learn anything else.
DAD: That'd be great. Thanks for coming in, Mac.

Damn it. Half the conversation is unintelligible. What the hell is causing that interference? Maybe Mac's laptop emitting a Bluetooth signal?

Veronica listens three more times to the conversation and manages to pick up a few more words. Something about a sophisticated computer scheme. Mac should know, I guess. She sounded impressed.

The physical therapy aide touches Veronica's shoulder, and she jumps in alarm. Veronica pulls the earbuds from her ears. "Ooh, you startled me."

"Must be some good tunes. John's ready to work with you." The aide busies herself detaching the electrodes from Veronica's shoulder and then leads her to a therapy table.

"How's the pain today?" the therapist asks. He palpates the most tender areas, and Veronica tries not to wince.

"Generally better, but that—ah!—hurts right there."

"Okay, we'll take a look at that. How about strength, flexibility?"

"Actually...think that's significantly better," Veronica muses, thinking about her sexcapades with Logan the night before. "Yeah...I'm definitely better," she adds with a smile.

John grins. "You look better. Your color's better, you're moving a little more freely today. Let's see how far we can stretch that shoulder."

After the therapist contorts her shoulder in every direction and massages the surgical adhesions, he releases her to the aide, telling Veronica to increase the weights by one-half on every machine. The aide sets up Veronica on the first therapy machine. "Three sets of ten."

"I know," she replies. It's always...three sets of ten. "But I can try to go four sets, right?"

"Of course, if you're not hurting." The aide tucks a small block under Veronica's armpit and puts the handle attached to a pulley system in her hand, and Veronica begins gently rotating her forearm out and back in while holding the block in place.

Every exercise seems ridiculously simple...until she tries it. The first couple weeks the aide had to stop Veronica from trying too hard, explaining that her impatience to get stronger was going to hold her back by ramping up her pain levels. She grimaces her way through all the shoulder exercises.

"Let's get you set up on the treadmill. Fifteen minutes, right?" the aide suggests.

"Can I go twenty? Maybe even thirty? I hate feeling so weak. I want to push it. I was running ten miles a day before I went undercover." It's not a lie—Veronica feels like a cripple having to walk, not run, on the treadmill to avoid jarring her shoulder—but the real reason she suggests lengthening the time is the opportunity to listen to more of the surveillance.

"Let's see how you're doing at twenty minutes, okay?"

Veronica puts the headphones back on and begins pacing steadily. She smiles reassuringly at the aide and tries to walk easily so that the aide won't stop the exercise at twenty minutes. She hits 'play' on the iPod and begins skipping through tracks.

DAD: —lo, Lloyd, it's Keith Mars.

Veronica racks her brain. Lloyd...Lloyd.

DAD: What do you hear? This reporter...Tom Chilton.

Veronica realizes: Lloyd Blankenship, at the Neptune Register.

DAD: I think he's doing a hatchet job on my client...really, he's got a source? Hmm....Any way you could ask your editor to hold off on the story—...Yeah, I know. Newspapers are hurting these days, anything to get a bump in circulation. But it seems like you're hanging him out to dry, and it's not just my client who will get hurt. His daughter is the one who will suffer.

His daughter?

DAD: [heavy sigh] I know. I appreciate it. Thanks.

The aide comes over and says something; Veronica, still walking steadily on the treadmill, hits pause and says, "Sorry...couldn't hear you."

"Feeling okay? John said you could try to go all the way to thirty minutes."

"Awesome!" Veronica replies, slightly sarcastic. "That's almost as good as Mrs. Donager."

The aide chuckles; Mrs. Donager is eighty-five and uses a walker. "Try to be a little more patient with your body, Veronica."

"Patience is not my strong suit."

"Yeah, we know. Ten more minutes."

Veronica smiles and hits 'play'. She hears a door closing on the track and listens intently.

DAD: What you got for me, Wallace?
WALLACE: They went to a party on Feb. 21, at the Banks. The cook remembered, because she had the night off.
DAD: Catered affair?
WALLACE: Yep. Elite Catering.
DAD: You need to talk to Martha—
WALLACE: I'm on it. I've got an appointment with her later today. I'll try to get the guest list and the employees who worked at the party. We can see if the Crawfords talked about their upcoming vacation. Any word from Weevil?
DAD: He said he should have something by Wed. afternoon. He's got to go up to Chino in person.

The Crawfords? Are they the clients? What the hell is Dad working on? How does Ratner connect to the Crawfords? And Chino? Weevil's working for Dad now too?

The next track begins abruptly. Another phone call.

DAD: —Keith Mars...have you heard from the reporter?...hmm, I agree, that's not good....No, don't give him a quote. You don't want to do that. Just say 'no comment'....Hold up a sec—are you thinking about running? Talk to me...You can't give up hope. Even if the article runs—...No, I haven't said anything to Veronica; she's pretty fragile right now, I don't think she can handle any additional stress....We have until the copy deadline. For the Register's Sunday edition, that's eleven p.m. on Friday....Promise me, Duncan. You can't run again. If you—

Veronica hits the iPod's pause button in a panic, almost stumbling on the treadmill. Duncan? Duncan?!! She stops the treadmill, standing on the rubber mat and gripping the side rail, oblivious to her surroundings. She hits rewind and listens again, her exercises completely forgotten.

DAD: —Keith Mars...have you heard from the reporter?...hmm, I agree, that's not good....No, don't give him a quote. You don't want to do that. Just say 'no comment'....Hold up a sec—are you thinking about running? Talk to me...You can't give up hope. Even if the article runs—...No, I haven't said anything to Veronica; she's pretty fragile right now, I don't think she can handle any additional stress....We have until the copy deadline. For the Register's Sunday edition, that's eleven p.m. on Friday....Promise me, Duncan. You can't run again. If you run this time, there won't be any chance of an amnesty again; you'll spend the rest of your life on the run....I understand that you're angry and scared. It's unfortunate that she targeted you, but I think it will be obvious to everyone, including the judge, that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and vulnerable to a con artist....Don't do that to your daughter. Try to keep your spirits up. I'll call you later. [sound of phone hanging up]

[long silence]

DAD: [under his breath, barely audible] That fucking bitch.

Veronica recoils at her dad's uncharacteristically ugly, angry words. Fucking bitch...con artist...fucking bitch...oh my god. It's Kendall. Someone's threatening to write an article about Duncan and Kendall, his affair with her...or worse. Maybe somebody is planning to say that he killed her. Oh my god. Oh my god! Duncan!

The aide has hurried over. "Veronica? What's wrong? Did you hurt yourself?"

Veronica snaps out of it. "I'm sorry. I need to cut this short today."

The aide looks at her in confusion. "You have a few more exercises—"

"I need to get out of here."

Her therapist walks over. "What's going on?"

The aide explains, "She says she needs to stop."

John explains in a soothing voice, "Veronica, if something hurts, you have to tell us. We can modify the exercise. It's the movement of the muscles rather than the intensity that matters."

"John, I'm sorry. It's nothing to do with my rehab. Something's come up. It's really important." Veronica heads to the locker room to retrieve her purse. She pulls out her phone and hits speed dial '3'. "Logan, can you pick me up a little early?...Yeah, as soon as possible. I'll explain when you get here."

When Logan pulls up out front fifteen minutes later, she is pacing back and forth in agitation outside the building. Veronica yanks open the car door angrily and gets in. She glares at him, and he asks, "Veronica, what happened?"

"Did you know?" she says accusingly.

"Did I know what?" he replies, utterly confused.

"Did you know that Duncan hired Dad?"

"How did you—" Logan breaks off.

"That's your response? How did I find out? I bugged Dad, okay?" She fumes, breathing hard.

"You bugged your dad?"

"How about you stop answering me with questions and give me some actual answers?" she replies furiously.

"Your dad mentioned it on Thursday. I don't know the details. He asked me not to tell you," Logan responds. "What would you have wanted me to do?"

"You should have told me!"

"Because you're reacting so calmly," he comments, attempting unsuccessfully to keep his voice steady and unemotional.

"Damn you," she exhales. She turns to stare out the window. "Take me to the office. I want to talk to Dad."

"I think you need to try to calm down, Veron—"

"Take me to the goddamn office, Logan," she says bitingly. "Or get out of my fucking car, and I'll drive myself. How could you do this to me?"

"Really. That's how you're going to treat me? 'Get out of my fucking car'? Nice." He tries to resist reacting to her anger, but his rage suddenly bubbles over. "I wanted to tell you, you know. And Veronica, you are NOT being fair. You told us you wanted out of the business. So you're out. You know that I told you that I thought quitting was a mistake and you were going to regret it. But I tried to keep my mouth shut and let you do what you wanted. I knew you'd find some reason to blame me. Like you always do. I can't fucking win with you," he concludes bitterly.

"What exactly is this reporter going to write about Duncan?" Veronica asks anxiously.

"Yeah, let's make this about Duncan."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"If Duncan needs help, you swing into action. You put your whole fucking life on the line for him...you fucking kidnapped a baby, Veronica...in what world is that okay? And somehow it's always my fault." Logan puts the car in drive and exits the parking lot, turning towards Mars Investigations.

Veronica glances at his angry face. She tries to calm herself and says quietly, "Logan, I'm—"

"I don't want to hear it, Veronica."

"Logan—"

He stares straight ahead at the road and ignores her. They drive in tense silence to Mars Investigations. He parks the car, and they both get out. She turns toward the office door, but he goes the other way, walking down the sidewalk to the corner. "Where are you going?" she asks.

"I need to get away from you."

"Logan!"

He calls over his shoulder, "Call me when you're ready to go, and I'll take you back to the apartment. I'll pack up my stuff tonight and be out of your hair in the morning."

She hurries after him and grabs his shirt. "Logan, stop. I'm sorry. You can't—"

Logan turns around. "Listen, your dad can get someone else to drive you around and carry your books for you. What the hell...I'll pay for it. It'd be worth it." He plucks her hand off his shirt and starts walking again.

"Logan, please, I'm so sorry. I love you," she says, beginning to cry.

He stops. Without turning around, he says quietly, "You love me, or you need me?"

"I love you and I need you," she replies tearfully.

"Go take care of Duncan," he answers.

"I don't love him. I love you."

"Right. Hey, if you save his ass again, maybe he'll carry your books for you. Right now, I think I need to go find my backbone, see if I can salvage my life. You know what they say about abused kids...after a while, they start to think they deserve it. I guess I always took your shit because I thought I deserved it, Veronica."

Veronica flinches overtly, and the tears stream down her cheeks.

He continues bitterly, "Everyone's been so afraid to upset you, you know? Veronica's been through a horrible experience. Veronica's messed up. We got to protect her. We got to take care of her." Logan takes a deep breath. "Well, I needed you to take care of me too. Do you know what it did to me to hold you down at the school? I turned into my fucking father for you, Veronica," he says with deep revulsion.

Veronica backs up away from him until she is leaning against the building. She doubles over, clutching her stomach.

He sees her stunned reaction and closes his eyes. "Fuck. And now I did it again. I can't ever do a single fucking thing right. I can't even fight fair. Maybe I am like my dad."

As he walks away, he flings over his shoulder, "Try to remember I always loved you...even when I hurt you."

Veronica sinks down to the sidewalk; she hugs her knees to her chest and sobs.

Wed. 4/22/09: afternoon, Mars Investigations, Neptune, CA

Keith picks up the phone. "Wallace—...She's what? I'll be right there." He cradles the phone. "Eli...come with me." He and Weevil hurry out of the office and down the street, where Wallace is hugging Veronica, who is huddled on the sidewalk in tears.

"What happened?" Keith asks anxiously.

"I saw her sitting here on the sidewalk when I pulled up. I think she had a fight with Logan," Wallace explains.

"My fault, all my fault," she sobs incoherently. "Daddy, why didn't you tell me about Duncan?"

"Shit," Weevil comments.

"What did he do?" Keith asks angrily. "How long have you been here, honey?"

A woman watching from the doorway of a nearby store comments, "It happened just a couple minutes ago. He walked that way." She jerks her head toward the corner.

Veronica is crying soundlessly. Her dad pulls her up from the sidewalk into his arms and starts walking her to the office. Weevil says, "I'll kill him," and starts to walk down the block.

"Weevil, no," Wallace protests, grabbing Weevil's sleeve. "I'll go. You go with Mr. Mars, see if you can help with Veronica." Weevil stares at him balefully before acquiescing and following Keith.

Wallace walks down the block. At the corner, he looks left, then right. Joe's Pub...shit. Wallace pushes open the door. Logan sits at the bar, barely visible in the dark room. There's a large glass in front of him filled with an amber liquid. Logan is spinning the glass on the bar, a few drops escaping the rim when he turns it a little too violently.

Wallace sits down next to him. He pulls out his wallet and calls over the bartender. He puts a ten on the counter and says, "Take that away, okay?" The bartender looks at Logan questioningly.

Logan shrugs. "Whatever, man." The bartender takes the glass and walks away.

"Not whatever. So you had a fight. What the hell are you doing in here?"

"Leave me alone."

"What. Happened." Wallace says strongly.

"She bugged her dad. Can you believe it?" Logan replies incredulously.

"Yeah, actually I can. Sounds like Veronica."

"She blamed me for not telling her that Duncan was in trouble again. And I blew up at her."

"That boy's a mess," Wallace pronounces. "He's completely pathetic."

"Yeah, right? But she always runs to help him."

"Do you have any idea what she was like when you ran away?" Wallace asks. "She made all of us help find you. I got real sick of hearing your name. I must have watched that stupid video from Madeira a thousand times with her. She didn't rest until she located you in Texas. And then she made sure you were okay...and she left you alone, like you wanted. Almost killed her to do that."

Logan glances at Wallace.

Wallace adds, "I really don't know what she sees in you, anyways."

Logan scoffs. "Yeah, thanks, man. Fuck you too."

"Don't fuck this up. She's in her dad's office crying right now. She said it was all her fault, and she blew it with you. Let's get out of here and fix this."

"Can't fix it," he mutters morosely. "I'm a raging asshole. Not only is it genetic, it's terminal, apparently."

Wallace chuckles. "Huh. Listen, she is a pain in the ass. You know it, and I know it. But we'd both walk through fire for her. And I'm pretty sure despite all evidence to the contrary that she's totally in love with you." He makes a face. "You guys have been completely repulsive lately. All that lovey-dovey shit. That is not Veronica Mars. I can't wait 'til she charges up her taser and starts chasing after motherfuckin' bad guys again."

"Oh, so you don't believe she's quitting either?" Logan asks facetiously.

"Not a chance in hell. But you know it's a lot easier to just agree with her. Damn, boy. Haven't you learned anything in all these years? The trick is, you gotta make her think it's all her idea."

"She bugged her dad, Wallace," Logan repeats.

"Sounds like she's feeling better, right?" Wallace observes. "Coming out of retirement, you might say."

"Yeah."

Wallace stands up. "Come on, let's go. You need to talk to her."

"She's with her dad?" When Wallace nods, Logan adds, "You think you can go first, make sure he's unarmed?"

"Yeah, no problem. He's upset, but he knows her too. I think you'll be okay. And you think he's gonna be happy to hear she was bugging him?"

At Mars Investigations, Keith has helped Veronica lie down on the couch in reception. He sent Susan to buy some Tylenol, mostly to get her out of the office so they could talk freely.

"Veronica, what was the fight about?

She shakes her head, keeping her eyes closed. "What's going on with Duncan?"

"What did Logan say? Did he do something?" Keith presses.

"It doesn't matter what he said. It's my fault. I treated him terribly."

"Let me be the judge of that."

"Dad, please tell me what's going with Duncan."

Keith sighs. "Veronica. Some reporter got wind of his affair with Kendall. There's going to be a big exposé in the Sunday Register. It sounds like the reporter's going to suggest that Duncan might have been involved in her murder. How did you find out—"

"What are you doing about it?" Her eyes are still closed, almost as if she's expecting a blow.

Keith stares at her. "Veronica, honey, open your eyes."

She looks up at him warily.

"I'm trying to figure out who killed Kendall. If there's a big break in the case, no one will care about Duncan and who he slept with. I'm betting she was running a major con of some type, and if I can prove it, everyone will see what she's like."

Veronica asks, "What do the Crawfords have to do with it? And Ratner?"

"How did you—"

Wallace and Logan walk into the reception area; Logan hangs back a little, obviously unsure of himself. Wallace says, "She had you bugged, Keith. Vee, I can't believe you."

"She did what?" Keith asks incredulously. "Veronica, is that true? Here I've been worried sick about you—" He breaks off, realizing that he's getting truly angry.

Veronica sees Logan and struggles to sit up. "Logan! Are you—" She swallows and stands up. She walks to him and throws herself against him. "I'm so sorry." Keith watches for a moment before disappearing into his office.

At first Logan stands completely still, uncertain what to do. Tentatively, he puts a hand on her back and says quietly, "Me too." She whimpers a little, and suddenly more confident, he strokes her back and pulls her tight against him.

"You didn't mean it, did you? Please...you're not really going to leave—"

"I'm not going anywhere. I'm sorry I got mad at you."

Weevil blurts out, "You should be. What the fuck's wrong with you?"

Wallace glares at him. "Shut it, man. Stay out of it."

Keith emerges from his office tossing the bug up and down in his hand. "Where's the recorder, Veronica?"

"Behind the credenza," she mumbles.

He walks over to the credenza and runs his hand behind it, removing a small electronic device. "Veronica—"

"I know," she protests. "You don't have to say it."

"Veronica, you asked us to respect your wishes. You told us you were quitting the business, changing your major, leaving Neptune. We've all been so worried about you."

"I know," she whispers. "I couldn't help it. I had to know."

There's a moment of silence, and then Keith starts chuckling. Wallace joins in immediately, and eventually Logan and Weevil begin to smile as well.

"Stop laughing at me!" Veronica cries in aggravation.

"You're very predictable, honey," Keith says.

"Not so broken after all," Wallace comments under his breath to Weevil.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
VERONICA MARS
10:00PM SHO ch: 340 60min 2009 TV-MA
Dénouement
Veronica puts it all together (and you thought
I wasn't going to wrap this up!)
Veronica: Kristen Bell. Logan: Jason Dohring.
Keith: Enrico Colantoni. Wallace: Percy Daggs
III. Tina: Anna Campbell.
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FORTY-NINE: "DÉNOUEMENT"

Wed. 4/22/09: afternoon, Mars Investigations, Neptune, CA

"Are you going to tell me what's going on with Duncan?" Veronica asks. "What have you found out?" She pulls Logan over to the couch, and they sit down together. Tentatively, he puts his arm around her, and she leans into him.

Keith looks at Logan, who shrugs. Keith clears his throat. "We've been pursuing the vehicle that picked up Kendall the night she was killed. Jeff Ratner gave her a ride—"

"You're kidding. That's how Ratner's connected?" she interrupts.

Keith explains, "She convinced Ratner to give her a ride from the Grand to a meeting downtown. She was picked up by a black SUV. Ratner identified the make and model, and the sheriff matched it to a vehicle reported stolen by the Crawfords. Don't you remember?...Leo told us about the SUV before we went up to Rio Linda."

Logan comments, "I think she fell asleep before that part. Remember? Leo was surprised...he thought she was superhuman and never slept."

Veronica looks pissed and embarrassed. "Damn it. I don't remember him telling us about an SUV."

Keith tries to soothe her ego. "Veronica, you were still recovering from your infection. Leo confirmed it was the vehicle by checking the traffic cameras around the area where Ratner dropped her off."

"Where was this?" Veronica asks curiously.

Keith replies, "729 Main Street, the Rose Office Building. Ratner said she seemed to know the driver."

"And then what?" Veronica presses.

"Ratner was supposed to meet up with her again at 10:00. She didn't show, even though he waited until 10:30, when he finally took off. The sheriff put the SUV, a five-year-old Lincoln Navigator, on a watch list. Its stereo turned up in a pawnshop in San Diego. The pawnshop got the stereo from Paddy's Car Parts and Used Car Emporium. Leo got a search warrant, and they found the seats from the Navigator in Paddy's lot, and one of Kendall's hairs on the seats."

Veronica frowns. "So what's the problem? Fitzpatricks, case closed. That's pretty solid evidence."

Wallace interjects, "They were all arrested that night, remember, Vee? Weevil heard that Liam was accepting a shipment of stolen cars that night; we called a tip in to the sheriff, and they were all arrested. Everyone spent the night in jail, except a few low-level flunkies."

"And you remember Liam said he didn't know who killed her," Logan reminds her.

"Yeah, except that he's a lying sack of shit," Veronica observes. "So one of his employees showed a little initiative and took care of his boss's problem for him, while Liam had an iron-clad alibi. Why are we taking Liam's word for anything?"

Weevil says quietly, "Because someone was setting them up, that's why. Oswaldo Cortez told me that the Navigator was sitting unlocked in front of the River Stix when the bar closed down at two a.m. The Fitzpatricks aren't ones to look a gift horse in the mouth; it was chopped by morning."

"You mean..." Veronica muses.

"Only thing it was missing was a sign that said 'Steal me,'" Weevil concludes.

"Wait a second, I thought you said it was stolen from the Crawfords," Veronica says.

"Who have a housekeeper named Mulvaney, related to Daniel Mulvaney who had a little publicity last fall when he gave false testimony against you, Veronica."

Veronica thinks for a moment. "So of course it looked like the Fitzpatricks used the housekeeper to get a car."

Keith says, "Right. She had the alarm code, she had access to the car keys and could have had a set made, she has a nephew who's a known criminal...any idiot could see that there's a connection. But Mac asked me: why would the Fitzpatricks bother? Why not just steal a random Toyota or your basic older GM car that's simple to hotwire? This was a distinctive car that a witness would remember, with easy-to-trace high-end parts that would end up in a chop shop for sure. And it was locked up in a garage with an alarm and a security system."

"It's too smart," Veronica concludes. "Too much planning."

"Exactly. It's not a methhead crime," Keith agrees.

Logan glances at Veronica's face. She looks alive, ridiculously happy as she's pondering all the possibilities and struggling to understand just what happened. He suddenly realizes just what was going on with her the evening before when she had seemed so vibrant and excited...and he also understands just what it was that he had been responding to. She catches his eye and returns his gaze quizzically. "Later," he whispers.

Weevil is theorizing out loud. "So if they didn't get in with the housekeeper's help, how did they steal the car?"

Keith says, "They hacked into the security company monitoring the alarm system. Mac said there was a security patch uploaded about the week before the car was stolen, and the hacker used a weakness in the patch to generate the alarm code by tracking all the times the system was activated or deactivated."

"And?" Veronica asks.

"And what?"

"How did they steal the car itself? That car has a computer chip in the ignition and can't be hot-wired, right? Did the thief have a transponder key?"

Keith shakes his head. "We haven't figured that out yet. Wallace discovered that the Crawfords went to a party about three weeks before. Did you get the guest list from the party planner?"

"And the cater waiters who worked the party," Wallace says smugly, handing several sheets of paper to Keith.

Veronica snatches them from his hand and looks at them. "It's like a who's who of Neptune. Everybody who's anybody was there. Politicians, socialites, corporate executives." She shuffles the pages. "And about a hundred people who were working the party, not just waiters: cooks, bartenders, musicians, parking attendants, security, and a cleaning crew after the event. I see a few names here who I know have a record. What did the party planner have to say?" She passes the sheets to Keith, who thumbs through the sheaf of papers.

Wallace shrugs. "She didn't remember anything in particular. But it stands to reason the Crawfords might have mentioned that they were going on vacation soon, and anyone could have overheard them."

Veronica says, frustrated, "We need to talk to the Crawfords. Find out who they talked to, and who would have a set of keys or a way to get access to the keys. Unfortunately, the Crawfords hate me. Remember? The Boatloads of Fun Corp."

"It's okay, honey, lots of criminals hate you," Keith offers with a smile.

"Oh, that makes me feel much better," Veronica retorts as Logan struggles mightily not to chuckle.

Weevil says, "But why? Why was Kendall killed?"

"Kendall was probably running a con on somebody else, and they decided not to play along," Keith surmises. "And the Fitzpatricks were convenient patsies."

"Maybe," Veronica says thoughtfully. "You know, I'm wondering why Kendall was so foolish as to stick around Neptune when she knew Liam had a very good reason to kill her. I don't think she came back for the Phoenix Land Trust money after all...or even the five million she and Liam skimmed from Casablancas Enterprises."

"Then why?"

"A much bigger score. Something worth taking the chance of a lifetime. I think Kendall was lying her ass off when we talked to her. Well, mostly."

"What?" Wallace asks incredulously. "When did you talk to Kendall?"

Veronica explains, "Dad, Logan, and I questioned her before we went to Briar Hill. She was screwing Duncan, and he was suspicious of her. And then we caught her breaking into Mars Investigations. Logan recognized her as Kendall, despite all the plastic surgery."

Logan mutters, "Her profile was still...impressive. Hips don't lie, as they say."

Weevil snorts. "Or boobs."

"What else?" Veronica asks. "What else have you found out?"

Keith gets his notes from his desk. "Kendall's suite was searched that night. The hotel computer recorded the time of entry as 1:13 a.m. The killer would have had to hustle to get back to the Grand by then. Sacks said that the security cameras from the Neptune Grand parking lot didn't show any Lincoln Navigators coming into the lot that night. But whoever broke in was searching Kendall's room until 2:07, according to the hotel's computer log. So even if somehow the SUV got into the lot without being recorded by the cameras, they didn't have time to get it over to the River Stix before the bar closed at two a.m."

"Maybe they dumped the car and took a cab? Can I see that?" Veronica requests, extending her hand for his notes. She looks over his summary. "Kendall bribed Ratner with sex? Oh, that's awesome. I would have loved to have seen that....Here it is. The time of death was estimated between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m."

"Originally, they said nine to one, but with Ratner's testimony...." Keith shrugs. "She was still alive at 9:30."

"And it's about twenty minutes to Waterside Park from downtown. All right, let's say she was killed right at 10:00pm. The killer dumps the SUV at the River Stix...that brings us to—"

"Say 10:45, maybe 11:00, allowing for time to clean up any evidence from the crime scene after he shot her," Keith suggests.

Veronica says, "Then he takes a cab to the Neptune Grand—say a half an hour at least. Yeah, it's possible for the killer to have gotten back to the Grand in time to enter her room at 1:13, with time to spare. Even if he killed her at 11:00, he could have made it."

"I'm sure the sheriff examined all the cab records and tracked down every fare to the Grand that night," Keith muses.

Weevil says, "They probably got a ride from someone. How the hell are we ever going to figure that out?"

"Why do you think it was so important to search Kendall's room?" Veronica asks thoughtfully.

"Her laptop, I guess," Keith offers. "But they tossed the whole room."

"Spent almost an hour searching," Veronica muses.

"Sacks said that according to housekeeping all the cosmetics and toiletries were dumped down the sink too."

Wallace proposes, "Sounds like someone was looking for a key to a safe deposit box."

Keith nods. "Or something else small...a flash drive, maybe. We'll probably never know."

Veronica tries to remember everything Kendall said that night at the Neptune Grand. We're missing something. Why did Kendall come back to Neptune? She made it clear she was still up to her old tricks, bedding rich older men and running scams. If she came back just because Liam was in prison, she would have left the moment he was released. Something made it worth the danger to be in Neptune. Something worth a lot of money. And the Crawfords, telling their friends at the Banks's party about their upcoming vacation...their 09er friends....

FLASHBACK:

Kendall laughs and mocks Logan. "Yeah, Aaron promised me $200,000 to get one of Duncan's hairs out of the shower drain...from that shower right over there. I think his sleazebag attorneys planted it on his Oscar trophy. Then, after the trial, Aaron got shot before I could collect. We were sealing the deal that day, and I went to take a shower. When I came out, he'd been shot, and I got the hell out of there."

Then later...Kendall says, "I've been watching you. This fall, when Veronica was arrested, you didn't bail her out. You had to get Echolls to put up the bail money."

(END FLASHBACK)

Veronica thinks, When I was arrested...there was a lot of publicity about that case...and about the murder victim, Clarence Wiedman.

It was always about money for Kendall. Follow the money.... "Let me see that guest list again," Veronica says suddenly. She studies the names for several minutes, lost in thought. She murmurs, "The payoff of a lifetime." She turns to her dad and explains, "I think an accomplice searched the room. Can we get the surveillance footage from the hotel? Will Leo let you look at it?"

"I doubt it. He's not gunning for us anymore, but he's not going to go out of his way to help us either. You have an idea, Veronica?" Keith asks.

"Just a wild theory," Veronica replies, shaking her head. "And if I'm right...the murderer didn't dare show his face at the Neptune Grand, so he had an accomplice. I need to see the surveillance footage." She addresses Logan. "What about your friend Tina—the manager? Would she let us watch the security videos?"

"Worth a shot, I guess. But wouldn't she have turned over everything to the sheriff's department?" Logan replies.

Keith says, "Maybe not. They probably kept a copy for their own insurance purposes."

"Let's go. You'll have to be your most charming, Logan."

"When am I not?" he responds wryly.

Wed. 4/22/09: early evening, Neptune Grand Hotel, Neptune, CA

With a broad smile, Tina, the manager, says, "Mr. Echolls, how good to see you again. And your friend Veronica...and former Sheriff Mars, correct?" She nods at Veronica and Keith.

Logan says carefully. "We're hoping you can help us. We'd like to look at the security footage for March 11." He leans in and whispers, "It's for a very important case that Mr. Mars is working on."

"But that's the date..." Tina protests. "Oh, I see."

"We're quite certain we can prove who killed Ms. Casablancas, but we need your help to do it."

Tina confides, "We did save all that footage just in case. Our insurance company was quite clear that we needed to keep two sets of duplicates in case there was a lawsuit."

Keith interrupts, "Can we take a look at March 11? All the security feeds."

"Actually, we only need the registration desk," Veronica says quietly. "Starting from about March 4th, I'd say."

Keith looks puzzled.

"Follow me," Tina says. "I'll have the chief of security set it up for you."

A half hour later, they are seated in the security office watching video of one guest after another checking in or out of the Grand. They watch intently for almost an hour; the time code flashes by, 03/04/2009 turning into 03/05/2009 and then 03/06/2009, with the figures moving jerkily, one frame for every six seconds. There are long stretches with no activity, and the security guard speeds up the video, slowing down again when another guest approaches the desk.

"Who are we looking for, Veronica?" Keith asks, puzzled.

She smiles inscrutably as they keep watching. The time stamp reads 03/06/2009 10:18:36 when a young woman, with her blonde hair severely pulled back and sporting thick glasses, approaches the front desk to register. Veronica keeps her expression neutral. When they've watched all the footage from the security feed, she announces, "You know, I must have been wrong after all. Thanks, Joe," she says to the security guard.

Once outside the office, Keith queries, "What was that all about?"

"Astrid," Veronica explains. "She checked in on March 6th."

Wed. 4/22/09: late, Sunset Cliffs Apartment, Neptune, CA

Veronica and Logan are lying together in her bedroom. Logan is staring up at the ceiling, lost in thought, while she cuddles against his side. His hand strokes her head absently. She asks quietly, "Are you okay? It's a lot to process. I'm sorry I never told you before."

He shrugs. "It's not like anything's really different."

"Still, now you know..."

"Yeah, now I know. I don't blame him. He was trying to do the right thing."

She tries to hear the meaning behind his words. "Are we okay? I mean...are we okay? I'm sorry I lashed out at you today. Logan...I'm so sorry."

He turns his head and looks at her. "Why do you always do that? And christ, Veronica...Duncan...you jump into action whenever he needs you."

"Duncan and I...we're always going to have a connection because of Lilly....Our Lilly, I mean," she rushes to explain. He nods that he understands. "I've never said it...but I wish I hadn't helped Duncan with the kidnapping. It made everything worse. I swear I tried to talk him out of it. But he was so determined, and I didn't think he'd be able to get away with it without my help. And now...I guess I feel responsible for him. Maybe I feel guilty, that I should have stopped him. But you know I don't love him, right?"

Logan brushes the hair from her forehead. "I don't really care about Duncan. I'll probably always be a little jealous of him, but I believe you when you say you don't love him. But Veronica...why do you always lash out at me when you're upset? We can't keep doing this. And I hate how I reacted to you. It always escalates to the nuclear option right away."

"I thought I lost you. But you came back."

"Yeah, I can't stay away from you for long. You know I love you, Veronica."

"It's never been easy for us," she muses. "I know that I really hurt you today. I know you need me, too, and it's true, I haven't been great about taking care of you lately. I swear that I'm trying to do better, Logan. You've got to know...I can't imagine a life without you. Yeah, it's intense, sometimes too intense. But I think I'd rather be fighting with you than loving anyone else."

Logan huffs a laugh. "You are seriously messed up, Veronica."

"You're just figuring that out?"

Logan replies, "You know, we better get some sleep. It's going to be a hard day tomorrow."

"Tell me about it."

He thinks, She doesn't sound scared. She knows she can do this. Just before they fall asleep, Logan whispers, "I'd rather fight with you than love anyone else too. Guess I'm messed up too."

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
VERONICA MARS
10:00PM SHO ch: 340 60min 2009 TV-MA
Veronica Mars Is Smarter Than Me
As if there was any doubt.
Veronica: Kristen Bell. Logan: Jason Dohring.
Keith: Enrico Colantoni. Wallace: Percy Daggs
III. Mac: Tina Majorino.

And...some other people. You'll see....
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FIFTY: "VERONICA MARS IS SMARTER THAN ME"

Thurs. 4/23/09: morning, Neptune Sheriff's Department, Neptune, CA

Veronica walks into the Neptune Sheriff's Department. "Hi, Jerry. Is the sheriff available? I need to speak to him." She brushes past the reception desk without waiting for permission.

Sacks protests, "Uh, Veronica, let me see if he's—"

Veronica smiles beatifically. "I'm sure he's available for me." Suddenly, she realizes, Damn, this feels good.

Deputy Sacks hurries to catch up with her. "Veronica...just hold on one second." He knocks on Leo's door. "Sheriff? Someone to see you." He whispers to Veronica. "What's this about?"

"It's a secret," she whispers back slyly.

"Uh, Sheriff?" Sacks repeats, knocking again.

Leo flings open the door and barks, "What is it, Sacks?" He spies Veronica behind Sacks. "Veronica."

"Sheriff. I'd like to make your day."

"You're confessing? That would truly make my day," he retorts skeptically.

"Not quite. Can we have some privacy?" she asks.

Leo purses his lips, assessing. "What's going on?"

"I'd be happy to explain in your office."

"Sacks...hold my calls. You've got ten minutes, Veronica," he says, opening the door so she can enter.

Veronica sits down; he notes that she seems confident and purposeful, not the half-broken girl he last saw before the Rio Linda debacle. Wondering what the hell she's up to now, he shuts the door and takes a seat at his desk.

She takes a deep breath and announces, "I'm prepared to give you Kendall's murderer. I heard the indictment against the late Liam Fitzpatrick was dismissed for lack of evidence...and for good reason: he didn't do it."

"Okay, spill it, Veronica. What is it you think you know?"

She raises a single finger, wagging it back and forth. "Not so fast. I need two things from you first."

Leo leans back in his chair. "And now the scam begins. What do you want, Veronica?"

"The first thing is I need to see the stolen car report on the Crawfords' SUV. It's just to confirm my little theory."

"Why should I?"

"Because I'm going to get the murderer to walk in to the station and give you a confession."

"You're unbelievable."

"I know," she says, smiling broadly. "It drives my dad crazy. Come on, Leo."

"It's 'Sheriff', please."

"Sheriff D'Amato, may I please see the stolen vehicle report? What's the harm?"

With a sigh, he shuffles through some folders and extracts a piece of paper, handing it to her.

Veronica skims the paper, stabbing with a finger at a particular line. "I thought so. Equipped with a remote starter." She passes the report back. "Now here's what I need you to do. You're going to announce that an arrest in the Kendall Casablancas case is imminent. You're not going to say who it is, but you are going to say that the evidence is substantial and incontrovertible."

"Who am I arresting?"

"I told you, the murderer is going to walk in to the station and give you a confession. Don't worry so much, Sheriff!"

Leo stares at her, trying to gauge just what game she could be playing. As much as it pains him to admit it, he's well aware Veronica has an excellent track record for solving cases. "All right, you got a deal. When do you need me to make the announcement about the arrest?"

"About 1:00 would be perfect. I'll try to have your confession for you by the six o'clock news," Veronica announces. "Thank you so much, Sheriff." She leans over the desk and whispers conspiratorially, "And when you're considering a gift to thank me, I really like...cash."

"I think you should leave now, Veronica," Leo responds, rolling his eyes.

"Ta-ta," she says, smiling and waving as she walks out of the room. She stops suddenly and turns back. "One more thing, Sheriff. I was never here today...officially. I think it would work better if you received an anonymous tip."

"All right," he agrees, begrudgingly.

Outside the station, Keith and Logan are waiting in Veronica's Saturn. She jumps into the front seat. Keith says impatiently, "So? How'd it go?"

"Exactly the way I thought it would. I was right about the car, too," she muses. She turns slightly to smile at Logan in the back seat. "I guess I still got it, huh?"

Logan snorts. "Yeah, you still got it all right. Like you could ever give this up." He reaches over the seat to give her a hug. "Veronica Mars is on the case."

Thurs. 4/23/09: morning, Kane Mansion, Pemberton Estates, Neptune, CA

Jake Kane opens the door. "Keith. Veronica...Logan," he says finally, noting their somber expressions.

"May we come in?" Veronica asks.

Jake leads them to the living room and motions that they should sit down. Celeste is reading a magazine and looks up sharply as they enter.

"Mrs. Kane," Logan acknowledges as he sits down next to Veronica on the couch.

"Veronica, thank you for helping Duncan with his custody hearing," Celeste says in a brittle voice.

"Of course," Veronica replies. "So was it your idea to kill Kendall?"

"What are you talking about? Do you ever make sense, Veronica?" Celeste stands up and moves to the bar.

"I'm sure I'll never be able to prove it," Veronica continues. "But I believed Liam Fitzpatrick when he said he didn't kill her."

"Are you wearing a wire, Veronica? Trying to finish the job your father couldn't quite manage to make the Kanes pay for my husband's indiscretion with your mother?" Celeste asks as she pours herself a drink. The bottle clinks loudly against the glass, and Veronica wonders if Celeste is a little more rattled than she appears. Celeste pours a second drink and walks it over to her husband. "Would you like a drink? Some wine, perhaps? We're all adults now."

"No, thank you, and I'm not wearing a wire," she replies.

Jake says abruptly, "Do you really want to know, Veronica? Yes, Veronica, when Kendall threatened to tell the sheriff that she had seen my head of security at the Neptune Grand the day Aaron Echolls was killed, I had to do what was necessary."

Veronica explains, "Kendall recognized Clarence Wiedman when she read in the newspaper that I had been arrested for killing him. All of a sudden, she knew who was responsible for executing Aaron."

"Well, not quite," Jake muses. "She assumed that I hired Clarence."

"He was your employee after all," Veronica states.

Jake swallows half of his drink in a single gulp and stands up to pace around the room. "Kendall didn't seem to have considered that Duncan might have been behind the execution, and I didn't disabuse her of the notion."

"Everyone always did underestimate the guy," Keith comments. "But when he had to, he stepped in and took his kid to protect her, and he made sure that Aaron paid for his sins when the state didn't."

Veronica says matter-of-factly, "So you stole a car and lured Kendall with the promise of money. A lot of money, I'm assuming."

"You're doing well so far. You tell me," Jake says.

"How did you actually steal the car, Jake? I know you used a security patch on the servers at Neptune Alarmco to get the Crawfords' alarm code, but I'm guessing you don't have much experience with a slim jim."

"But I do have experience with computer software. Kane Software has been working with car manufacturers to develop stronger encryption software to prevent hackers from opening remote car locks wirelessly. So of course I have a copy of the program that car thieves use to steal cars with a wireless signal. I just made sure to select an older model vehicle which has no encryption. And the Crawfords told a funny story about using their remote starter during a snowstorm the last time they were in Aspen."

"At the Banks's party, right?"

"Very good, Veronica. It was child's play to generate a radio signal to trigger the starter mechanism. I bought a kit, tinkered with it for a few hours, and reverse-engineered its signal generator. It's really quite simple if you know the algorithms. It's not anywhere near as difficult as, say, streaming video."

"And after you killed her, of course you dumped the stolen car in Fitzpatrick territory, unlocked."

Jake shrugs. "It was a pretty safe bet that an unlocked car would be chopped up within an hour. And the car would point right at the Fitzpatricks...I remembered that Crawfords gossiping about the nephew of their housekeeper being involved in the case against Veronica last fall. D'Amato's not as incompetent as Lamb: I knew if they found the car, they'd make the connection with the Fitzpatricks."

Veronica comments ruefully, "It was really quite clever. Too clever, in fact, which is what made us think it wasn't the Fitzpatricks. And it probably would have worked if most of the Fitzpatricks weren't sitting in a holding cell the night was killed."

"What?" Jake says nervously.

Keith says, nodding his head, "Yeah. Liam and his brothers were in custody that night, arrested for receiving stolen goods. I have to admit, it was a pretty good plan, Jake. What happened to the gun that you used to shoot her?"

Jake, still processing the information about the Fitzpatricks, says without thinking, "I threw it off the Coronado Bridge the next day."

Veronica adds, "And you had Astrid search Kendall's room at the Grand. You didn't want to take the chance you would be caught on a security camera."

"Astrid checked in under an assumed name a few days before. She didn't leave for several days to avoid raising suspicion. She owes us...and of course she's just as guilty of abetting kidnapping as you are, Veronica. She does as she's told."

"How did she get into Kendall's room?" Logan asks.

"I borrowed Duncan's key card to make a master key that would open any door in the Neptune Grand. Secure magnetic coding technology is another area of research at Kane Software."

"But it was still incredibly foolish. With Duncan not having an alibi–"

"What are you talking about?" Jake interrupts. "Kendall assumed that I had hired Wiedman. There was no need to protect–"

"Duncan was having an affair with her."

"What?" Celeste exclaims.

"Yeah, your precious boy was sleeping with Kendall. He didn't know who she was, of course," Veronica explains. "I'm not sure if Kendall knew at first who he was either. She wasn't exactly chaste, if you know what I mean. She claimed she was lonely and didn't know who Duncan was until the press conference. Then she probably decided to hedge her bets, and she took the affair to the next level."

Jake says angrily, "How do you know all this? How do I know you're not just making all this up?"

Logan says quietly, "I recognized her. She hadn't changed that much after all. And we confronted her and told her to leave Duncan alone."

Veronica adds, "But when Kendall turned up dead, Leo began investigating her lover Duncan. He's assuming Kendall was blackmailing Duncan; she had been videotaping their...sessions together. Pretty racy stuff, I hear. I'm surprised none of the tapes have leaked onto the internet yet." She sighs loudly. "It sounds like he's going to arrest Duncan today."

Jake and Celeste stare at her in shock.

Impatiently, Veronica says, "So are you going to do the right thing?"

"Excuse me?" Celeste sputters.

Keith says, "You have to confess, Jake. You can't let your son go to prison for this."

"This is completely ridiculous. Duncan hasn't said a word about this to me."

"Call him," Veronica urges. "Make sure he's okay."

Jake withdraws a cell phone from his jacket pocket and hits a key. He puts the phone to his ear.

Thurs. 4/23/09: morning, Duncan Kane residence, Neptune, CA

Wallace and Mac sit in a nondescript car outside Duncan's house, slumped down out of sight observing a device with an antenna and several LED readouts. "Are you sure it's working?" Wallace asks for the third time.

"Yeah, I'm sure. It jams all cell phone calls, in or out, within two hundred feet," Mac says impatiently. "We tested it, remember?"

"Okay. So we wait to hear from Veronica, right?"

"Right. And if Duncan goes out, we follow him."

Thurs. 4/23/09: morning, Kane Mansion, Pemberton Estates, Neptune, CA

Jake listens to the phone ringing and finally going to voice mail. "Duncan...call me when you get this." He hangs up and glares at Veronica.

"I have a feeling Duncan's a little busy with the sheriff right now," Veronica suggests.

"I don't believe you," Jake says. "Duncan would have called."

"Check the television...see if they're announcing an arrest."

Jake picks up a remote from the coffeetable and hits a button. A flatscreen TV rises impressively from a wooden recessed fixture.

"Fancy," Veronica mutters. "Bet that cost a bundle." She turns to her dad. "A little nicer than our rabbit ears, huh, Dad?"

"I didn't want to spoil you, Veronica," Keith replies.

"That's why I love you, Dad."

Celeste is not amused at the exchange. Jake hits another sequence of buttons, and the local Neptune channel appears on the screen. There is a newscrawl at the bottom.

SHERIFF LEO D'AMATO ANNOUNCES ARREST IN KENDALL CASABLANCAS MURDER. DETAILS TO FOLLOW...TUNE IN TO ACTION NEWS AT FIVE.

Jake, furious, tries to call Duncan again with no success. "Damn it!" he curses loudly when there is no answer.

Keith says offhandedly, "You know, it's possible that you felt threatened when Kendall blackmailed you."

"What are you saying?" Jake asks distractedly.

"I don't think you want to tell the world that your son had Aaron Echolls executed, do you? Perhaps Kendall was blackmailing you about her affair with your son. She threatened to use the videotapes she'd been making to destroy Duncan's chances of getting custody of his daughter."

"That's ridiculous," Celeste says sarcastically.

Veronica snipes, "Most grandparents would be motivated to help their son in that situation. Of course you and I know you would have been thrilled if Duncan lost custody of Lilly, but it's a plausible theory for anybody with a shred of humanity."

Jake frowns. "So you're saying...."

Keith says carefully, "Kendall and an accomplice came here to your house and threatened you with a gun. You were in fear for your life and your wife's. There was a struggle, the weapon went off, and Kendall ended up dead. The accomplice fled with the car. You panicked and disposed of the body because you were afraid Duncan would lose custody of his daughter."

Under his breath, Logan says, "After all, it's what you did with Lilly. They'll believe it."

"Involuntary manslaughter. I'm sure your attorneys could work with that," Keith concludes. "If you're smart, you'll spin it as a tragedy."

"Accomplice? What accomplice?" Jake asks, finding his voice.

Veronica says impatiently, snapping her fingers, "Tom Griffith, of course. Try to keep up! He's dead...he can't testify against you. He was photographed with Kendall the last week before she died, and he worked with the Fitzpatricks. He had his lowlife friends dispose of the car for him."

Celeste says, frowning, "I thought he left a letter confessing...."

"Trust me, Dr. Griffith's self-serving confession won't exclude him from this scenario," Keith comments. "If you get your stories straight."

Jake and Celeste exchange a glance. Jake sputters, "What about Astrid?"

Veronica replies, "What does she really know? I'm assuming you asked her to break into a particular room at the Neptune Grand, to deliver the laptop and anything else she found. Does she even know you killed Kendall? And I don't think she'll be volunteering any information. She isn't going to take the chance that she'll be charged as an accessory in the Manning babynapping."

"Why are you doing this?" Jake asks. "Why didn't you just take this to the Sheriff? You certainly hate us enough."

Veronica answers intensely, "We don't want Duncan to go to prison for Aaron's murder, and we're hoping that he can still adopt Lilly. You'll need to stress that Kendall was a ruthless con artist who targeted your son in order to get your billions, and you were desperate to help your son and your beloved granddaughter." Her voice is dripping with sarcasm.

"You might serve a year, Jake, if that. Isn't it worth it to spare your son from life in prison?" Keith asks. "We'll help you with your story. I trained Sheriff D'Amato in interrogation techniques when he rejoined the force, and I remember how he questioned me when I was under arrest. I know exactly how he'll interrogate you. And I also remember how you screwed up when I was investigating your daughter's murder. I won't let you do it again."

Thurs. 4/23/09: late afternoon, Neptune Sheriff's Department, Neptune, CA

Jake Kane, accompanied by his attorney and his wife, walks into the Neptune Sheriff's Department and asks to make a statement. The sheriff hides his surprise and escorts the billionaire into the interrogation room, where he takes Jake's videotaped confession. Several times, the attorney halts Jake's recitation; after whispered consultations, he continues with his tale. At the conclusion, the sheriff puts Jake in a holding cell and speaks to Celeste Kane, who confirms all the details of her husband's story. She is detained as well, in a separate cell.

Leo returns to Jake's cell. "Mr. Kane, I'm going to arrest you now. We won't be able to have an arraignment until the morning, so I'm afraid you're going to have to spend the night in this cell." He unlocks the cell door and motions that Jake should proceed him to another area of the department.

Leo supervises as Sacks fingerprints and photographs Jake Kane. Jake seems to have something on his mind. Finally, he says, "You're going to release my son now, right?"

"Excuse me?" Leo asks.

"I've confessed to Kendall's murder. You can release Duncan now."

"Duncan's not under arrest," Leo replies.

"But Veronica said—" Jake suddenly stops speaking.

Suddenly Leo gets it. Nodding thoughtfully, he says, "Veronica Mars stopped by this morning and asked me to make an announcement that I was arresting somebody today. She claimed that somebody would walk in and confess to Kendall's murder. We go way back, you know, so I tend to believe her. And what do you know...she was right." Leo smiles.

"Veronica Mars...." Jake says through gritted teeth. "Veronica Mars!"

"Did you want to change your statement, Mr. Kane?" Leo asks.

Jake, seething, shakes his head 'no'.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
VERONICA MARS
10:00PM SHO ch: 340 60min 2009 TV-MA
Tilting At Windmills
Getting on with their lives.
Veronica: Kristen Bell. Logan: Jason Dohring.
Keith: Enrico Colantoni. Wallace: Percy
Daggs III. Mac: Tina Majorino. Eli: Francis
Capra. Dr. Friedman: Lorraine Bracco. Dick:
Ryan Hanson. Rebecca: Paula Marshall.
Peter Klein: Clancy Brown. Maria: Gina
Mantegna. Nurse: Suleka Mathew.
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

EPILOGUE: "TILTING AT WINDMILLS"

Four weeks later...

Sat. 5/23/09: very late, Camelot Motel, Neptune, CA

VERONICA

So here I am, back at the Camelot motel, spying on creepy Stuart Fuller. When Mrs. Fuller came in to Mars Investigations saying she suspected that her husband was sleeping with their new baby-sitter, my dad didn't even have to say a word. I immediately said, "I'll handle it, Dad."

It's my first official case since I came out of 'retirement'.

I'm still trying to catch up on my classwork at Hearst—that twenty-page thesis for my 'Ethics in the Criminal Justice System' seminar isn't going to write itself—but it feels good to be slumped down in the Saturn with my telephoto lens pointed at the second floor balcony.

Duncan is still barely speaking to me. He was furious when he realized what I did. But when I saw the 'People' magazine pictures of him and Lilly playing together at the playground, I decided I don't regret a thing. Jake will serve six months in a cushy minimum security lockup and do a thousand hours of community service, and Celeste will do five hundred hours as well. I had to laugh when the court assigned her to work with children at the South Neptune homeless shelter.

Duncan will come around. With his dad in prison, he's had to take a seat on the board of directors at Kane Software. Apparently, he's learning the business from the top down, just the way his dad always wanted him to. The stock price took a hit and Duncan lost millions overnight, but word on the street is that Kane software's new line of educational software for toddlers is going to revolutionize the industry. In the 'People' magazine interview, Duncan stressed that Kane Software needs to diversify from its core business of security and encryption software if it's going to continue to be an industry leader. Maybe he has a knack for the business after all...who cares if he still has to get his secretary to show him how to force-quit when he crashes an application for the hundredth time.

We're still nervous about the adoption hearing, but the publicists that Jake hired have spun the story very well, and I think for once the justice system in Neptune is going to do the right thing. The same judge who presided over the custody hearing was assigned to the case, and the buzz around Family Court is that he'll make sure that Faith Manning's adoption goes through without a hitch. No one has suspected Astrid's part in Kendall's murder; the Kanes quietly let her go, with an extremely generous settlement and excellent references. I heard she moved to the East Coast.

Logan took the news about Duncan's...involvement...in his dad's death harder than any of us thought he would. As much as he hated Aaron, learning that his best friend paid to have him killed was a shock. I'm not sure that Logan will ever be able to be friends with Duncan again. It was already so difficult between them.

My phone buzzes on the seat next to me; I glance at the display. "Hi Dad....Yes, it's going just fine....I promise to check in on schedule....I won't stay too late. Bye, Dad."

It's a new era for me and Dad. No more secrets. Two adults...he even told me just what it was he did for Vinnie. Damn Vinnie to hell...I saw the shame in Dad's face when he admitted that he helped cover up a murder to keep me out of prison. Dad committed a felony for me and swore he'd do it all over again if he had to. I know where Dad hid Vinnie's gun, the bullet, and the license plates from the car so if anything...happens...to Dad, Vinnie can never open his mouth.

Oh, you didn't hear? Vinnie's back in town. I guess he thinks it's safe with Liam dead and Ciaran and Padraig sentenced to life in prison. He waltzed into Mars Investigations as if nothing had happened and tried to get my dad to help him with a particularly difficult bail jumper who's been eluding capture for months now. "Eighty-twenty split, what'dya say?" Vinnie suggested, and my dad just laughed.

You would have thought my dad would be upset about Vinnie showing up in Neptune again, right? You would be wrong. Dad just said, "We're okay. That's all that counts." You know what's crazy? I think he's actually looking forward to a little friendly rivalry between our agencies.

And what about my future? For now, I'm just taking it as it comes...a few cases that won't interfere with my classes. Nothing too dangerous, and Logan and Dad always know what's going on. It's a strange feeling, to be glad when they check up on me, but I'm getting used to it. The FBI called and asked me to resubmit my internship application, but after thinking about it for a couple days, I said 'no thanks'. The FBI will be there for me if I want it later on...but for right now I want to spend a lot of time with Dad and Logan...and work on the Briar Hill case.

We had a family meeting after Jake's arraignment—yes, we're a family, Dad, Logan, and I—and we talked about what we wanted. We each gave up so much for that undercover operation, and all of us felt that we wanted to make a difference, so we've decided to proceed with the lawsuit. I'm working hard on my therapy with Dr. Friedman so I can testify against Klein in his criminal trial. I won't deny that I wake up some nights in a cold sweat after dreaming about facing him in a courtroom, but I won't let him intimidate me. Logan rocks me back to sleep, and twice a week the three of us talk about everything...and it helps. I know he's talking about what happened at Briar Hill to Dr. Friedman as well. Sometimes Logan spends hours writing, processing...and one of these days, I'll read what he's written. Not yet. But soon. He's consulted with a top plastic surgeon to try to have a few of the scars from Aaron's beatings lasered from his body, starting with that cigarette burn on his shoulder.

Epstein is working on expanding the class for the civil lawsuit against Klein and Briar Hill Academy. This summer, we're going to travel around the country talking to graduates, trying to convince them and their parents to join us in our class action suit. Professor Kinny has been recruiting his colleagues to testify about the long-term effects of attack therapy, forcible imprisonment, and psychological manipulation.

And an anonymous benefactor contacted Dad and told him he would take care of any monetary judgment in Klein's countersuit against us...so we told the Briar Hill attorneys: bring it on. The publicity can only help the criminal case against Klein; Dad told Klein's lead attorney that we'd introduce every single surveillance recording as evidence in the suit. Carrie's done her part: her series on the abuses of the tough-love industry ran in Newsweek, with just a small sidebar interview of me talking about the undercover operation. She seems to have changed since her half-brother's death, and I hear she's working on a new series about government corruption. We've contacted Speaker Pelosi, hoping she'll sponsor a bill in Congress that makes a hearing mandatory before a minor child is committed by their parents or guardians to a rehabilitative facility and establishes minimum requirements and federal supervision of the therapeutic boarding school industry. We're not so naïve as to think that a new law will stop evil people like Klein for long, but it's a start.

Michelle Weisz has already sent two students to us...Dad told us he offered to help with her mission. He got them identification and found other tough-love survivors to house them until they turned eighteen. Logan and I drove them to Arizona and Nevada to their new homes. A boy, around sixteen, with haunted eyes, and a girl, only fourteen, who stuttered when she tried to talk...Logan gave both of them a duffel bag full of cash and an emergency contact email if they needed to be relocated again.

There's just a few things that still need to be taken care of.

Tues. 6/2/09: late morning, Bennington County District Court, Bennington, VT

The court services officer says, "Case adjourned in the matter of State v. Echolls, misdemeanor assault."

James Epstein turns to Logan and says, "We'll have that no contest plea expunged from your record as soon as possible."

Logan nods. To Veronica and Keith he says wryly, "More anger management classes...I could practically teach the course at this point."

"One year probation and a thousand dollar fine," Veronica sighs.

"I told you, it was worth it," Logan says firmly, kissing her forehead.

"Ms. Denenberg insisted on taking care of your fine," Keith reminds him. "Let her do this for you, okay?"

'Yeah. You want to get some lunch?" Logan suggests.

"Actually...." Veronica muses. "I'd like to go to the State Mental Hospital in Burlington. Maria Frazzino's being held there."

"Veronica—" Keith starts.

Veronica says quietly, "Did you know that Maria's mother has refused to talk to her? In fact...I'll bet she hasn't had any visitors at all since the hearing when the state remanded her to custody in a mental health facility for a period of one year."

"Maria voluntarily signed the commitment papers rather than face criminal charges," Keith reminds her.

"Ironic, right? After all the girls she convinced to sign the forms at Briar Hill?" Veronica adds.

"What are you thinking?" Logan asks.

"She's refused to talk to law enforcement about Klein and what was going on at Briar Hill. In fact, Jim told me," she nods at the attorney, "Jim said she's refused to participate in therapy and hasn't talked about her dad or Briar Hill at all to anyone. I'd guess she's being forcibly medicated. She's a victim, too. I have a feeling that she was Klein's special project...the way I was."

"Frazzino probably paid Klein handsomely to twist Maria's mind," Keith comments.

"If we could convince Maria to testify against Klein..." Veronica suggests hopefully. "And even if we can't, I don't like to think of her rotting away in some psych ward without any visitors."

Tues. 6/2/09: afternoon, Burlington Mental Health Facility, Burlington, VT

A burly female attendant leads Maria into a common area, where Veronica sits patiently. Veronica left her purse, her phone, everything except for two manila folders with Logan and Keith, who are waiting outside in the reception area outside the locked ward. The two folders, stuffed with papers, were turned over to the head nurse on duty to be checked for contraband; they were sealed with a sticker, signed and dated by the nurse, before they were returned to Veronica. Veronica has also purchased a few food items and two cans of soda from the vending machines, hoping that Maria will appreciate the gesture.

Maria is wearing jeans and a T-shirt; she moves slowly, almost shuffling. When she turns to Veronica, she looks confused at first before recognition dawns on her face. "You." Her pupils are inky black, and her voice is husky; Veronica has to fight to focus on her face. It's scary and abnormal; Maria is obviously heavily sedated.

Taking a seat in the opposite corner, the attendant says quietly, "I'll be over here if you need me. Maria, you're okay, right?"

Maria nods hesitantly.

"How are you doing?" Veronica asks. "Do you need anything?" She pushes the soda to Maria. "Do you want a soda? Some chips or a candy bar? I can get you something else if you prefer."

Maria looks puzzled. She says, "Connie."

"Right. That was the name I was using. My real name's Veronica. I know they told you what we were doing."

"Trying to shut down the school," Maria says, the words a little slurred. "Bitch."

The attendant interjects, "Maria."

"No, it's okay," Veronica says quickly. "I know...this is tough."

Maria whispers, too quietly for the attendant to hear, "Stupid slut. Couldn't mind your own business. Always choosing out instead of working on your program."

Veronica flinches and closes her eyes. Gathering her courage, she says, "Can I tell you a story?"

"Don't have a choice, do I?" Maria mumbles faintly.

Veronica tells Maria about Meg: the saintly girl who held off her horny boyfriend Cole; her plot to marry Duncan when she discovered she was pregnant by her dad; the bus crash and Meg surviving, but lying for months in a coma; Duncan running with the baby he thought was his daughter; and finally Duncan returning to Neptune, determined to adopt the baby and make a life for himself and his daughter.

"Why're you telling me thish?" Maria slurs. "What the fuck is your problem?" She wipes at her mouth, and Veronica realizes that the medication is making her drool.

"Meg's dad was evil. I think your dad was evil too. He gave you to Peter Klein, told him to keep you locked up and brainwash you into believing you were a juvenile delinquent, when you and I know you were probably trying to get high so you wouldn't think about what was going on when your dad came into your bedroom at night. And Klein turned you into his enforcer at Briar Hill." Maria stares at her impassively, and Veronica adds, "Did you know that they weren't going to let you graduate?"

"Bullshit," Maria sneers.

The attendant looks over, and Veronica lowers her voice. "You know that guard Roger...he was working for us too...he heard Klein and Tony talking. They were going to transfer you to Serenity Bay...on your dad's orders. They didn't want to take the chance you were going to tell the world what your dad had done."

Maria looks confused.

Veronica breaks the seal on the top folder in front of her. It contains surveillance photos and police reports concerning the Jamaican facility, and a first-person account by a survivor, telling of beatings and long stretches in solitary confinement in cages infested with roaches and rats. The last document is a copy of the letter from Serenity Bay, approving Maria's transfer there on 6/1/09 just before her eighteenth birthday. Without further comment, she lets Maria look at the documents.

Maria glances at a few of the documents; Veronica notes that her hand shakes slightly when she skims the letter from Serenity Bay. Maria closes the folder. "I don't believe you. I worked hard on my program. I was going to graduate."

Veronica shakes her head. "I know your mother has refused to see you."

"Fuck you," Maria replies.

"Don't let them do this to you. Talk to the counselor. Maria...my god...I was only there a week, and I was— I can't imagine how hard it was for you."

"Go away," Maria mutters, standing and walking to the door.

"Maria...do you know what Klein has said about you? He's going to blame you for everything that happened while I was there. In fact, he's given a sworn statement that he prohibited you from hurting me or any of the other girls. He said you'd been disciplined repeatedly for forcing girls to undergo strip searches against school policy."

Maria stops for a moment before continuing out of the room.

Veronica stands up and calls after her, "I've printed out some interviews that Klein's given. You need to know what he's going to say. There's going to be a criminal trial, Maria, and I think you're going to be the scapegoat. You should work with your psychiatrist and your attorney." When Maria doesn't stop or turn around, Veronica adds, "I'm coming back tomorrow to visit you again. Think about what I told you. I'll leave this here for you to read."

Maria suddenly stops and turns. She says with a smirk, "Love you, Connie."

Veronica wills herself not to react as Maria stares at her. Finally Maria walks away. Veronica hands the folders to the attendant, saying, "Please make sure Maria gets these." She goes to the locked door leading to the reception area and leaves the ward.

Wed. 6/3/09: afternoon, Burlington Mental Health Facility, Burlington, VT

The nurse says, "I'm sorry, Maria said she didn't want to see any visitors."

Veronica's face falls, and she turns away.

The nurse hurries to add, "Wait...Ms. Mars, I thought you should know. She talked to her doctor this morning. It's the first time she's participated in her treatment since she's been here. I think you got through to her."

"Can I maybe...write to her? Or call her?" Veronica asks hopefully.

"You can write to her, of course." The nurse scribbles on a card and passes it to Veronica. "I'll tell her you came by."

Fri. 6/5/09: afternoon, San Clemente, CA

"So what do you think?" Logan asks nervously.

"It's so small. Not ostentatious at all. How are we going to throw lavish parties and get our names in the tabloids?" Veronica asks flippantly. She walks around the one-story house, noting the unfashionably small kitchen and simple styling.

Logan nods. "Just two bedrooms, one for us and one for your dad when he visits. It does have the most important feature."

"What's that?" Veronica leans against him.

"Walking distance to the beach and an outdoor shower."

She snorts.

"I told you," he replies. "I'm ready to start surfing again. I need to get back out there on a board; it's been too long."

"And it's a rental," Veronica comments, still surprised.

"Right. It's not a huge commitment; we can even rent month-to-month at first. But the realtor said she thinks the owner could be convinced to sell if we decide we like it."

"Month-to-month? You must not have much confidence in this arrangement."

"Come on, Veronica. It's an experiment. We're figuring this out together, right?"

"I know," she agrees. "It's perfect."

Fri. 6/12/09: afternoon, Dr. Friedman's office, Los Angeles, CA

"Ready?" Logan asks, holding her hand tightly.

"Yeah, I am," Veronica says quietly.

The therapist asks again, "Are you sure—"

Veronica shakes her head. "I don't think I need a tranquilizer. I can do this. I know it's going to be hard."

"Just put your hand up if you want to pause or ask a question," Dr. Friedman reminds her. "You too, Logan."

He nods. "I think we're ready."

"We'll pick it up where we left off last time."

"When Klein put me in the circle," Veronica notes.

The doctor presses a key on the remote, and the TV screen in front of them comes to life. They've watched a few other selections from the surveillance footage in past sessions, so Veronica knows that the video will look a little skewed from the angle of the camera in the ceiling fixture. It always seems to make it a little more unreal to have the shot framed that way. And the audio is subdued. The first time when they listened, it struck Veronica how calm it seemed, when in her mind that whole experience was adrenaline and nervousness. And watching herself...the curly red hair and tough attitude, smarting off to them...it's eerie yet familiar.

Klein is stroking her hand, leaning towards her. She remembers suddenly the way his breath smelled, not the sour stench of evil and bile she had expected, but...spearmint and a hint of coffee. The memory is still nauseating, and she breathes out suddenly. Veronica sees Logan turn to her in her peripheral vision, and she whispers, "I'm okay. Don't stop."

Klein begins speaking, and they can't make out the words. "Stop, go back. I need to hear it louder," Veronica says, forcing her voice to stay steady. Friedman hits rewind, and they watch in silence as Klein's hand moves backward on Veronica's.

The therapist resumes the video, and they hear Klein say, "Connie...I wish I could make you see that there's nothing to be frightened of. We truly love you here....We want to restore you to sanity. Your life has been one lie after another until now, and we want to help you get honest. The first step is to admit that you have a problem. Connie, can you at least be that honest with us? Can you admit that you have a problem?"

She remembers thinking, I can do this. I know what he's looking for. She listens to herself saying, "I have a problem," and remembers ohmygod, so scared.

"Good girl. Tell us about your problem....Come on, Connie." The fucker won't stop stroking my hand, hate him, hate this, why isn't Daddy coming, say California again. Klein says, "Connie, do you think you might be an alcoholic? You've been learning a lot about that disease here."

"I'm an alcoholic. I'm a drug addict." God. Can't breathe. Tell him what he wants to hear.

Klein's voice is probing, insistent. "What do you think about God? Do you believe in Him?"

"I...I'm not sure what I believe." Suddenly Veronica realizes, I'm REMEMBERING this. I'm not just watching this, I REMEMBER this. I remember thinking frantically, 'what do I say, what do I say.' I remember what I was thinking.

Klein keeps droning on. "Okay. Well, we talk a lot about a Higher Power here...." Veronica fades out, the memories taking over instead of the video in front of her eyes. She stopped listening, she recalls, she just tried to breathe and think, breathe and think. I know Dad loves me. Something's wrong...no, maybe...no, can't be...could Dad have left me here...Logan's mad at me. Roger. Logan told them. He told them I was undercover...no, can't be.

Veronica puts up her hand, and Friedman pauses the tape. She closes her eyes and remembers. So scared. Roger told them I was undercover. No...where is he? She remembers carefully looking around the room, afraid to see him, and afraid not to see him.

Dr. Friedman says quietly, "You're okay, Veronica. We're here in my office. You're completely safe. That's Logan holding onto your hand."

Logan, holding onto my hand. She squeezes it hard, and he returns the gesture. Logan, not Roger.

Logan flicks his eyes to Friedman, and when the doctor nods, he says, "I'm right here, Veronica. We're okay."

Veronica finally mutters, "I'm okay, keep going." She opens her eyes as the video begins again.

Klein pronounces, "We are all just as sick and diseased as you are, and that's why we can help you. We can help you, Connie. We are here for you."

She watches as he releases her hand and stands up. Veronica suddenly knows what's coming, and she starts to shake. She watches as he puts his hands on her shoulder; she sees herself flinch. She doesn't hear what he's saying, she feels it...her shoulder aching and burning from his hand pressing hard. He starts to massage her shoulders on the video, and she tenses. Hurts...doesn't he see how much I'm hurting...fuck.

She tunes back in to the video and hears herself saying, "He started kissing my neck, and it was...I felt so relaxed and I wasn't scared at all and it just seemed...I don't know. I was out of it, I know." It sounds completely fake. No wonder he didn't believe me. She looks at the other girls; Megan is scornful, almost bursting with the impulse to stand up and tell Connie she's a liar. Maria is watching Klein closely, and suddenly Veronica wonders. She puts up her hand again.

Veronica says, "Go back a little, turn the sound down...I want to watch something." The doctor rewinds, and Veronica peers at the muted video. When Klein removes his hands from Veronica's shoulders, she motions 'stop', and the doctor complies. Hesitantly, she explains, "I think...I never really thought about it. Klein was like a father to Maria. She never takes her eyes off him. She would have done anything for him."

"A substitute father?" Friedman asks.

"Yeah. Showing off for him...making the new girl behave."

"Seeking approval," Friedman comments, nodding.

"Keep going...put the sound back up," Veronica says.

They watch as Klein keeps pressing Veronica to 'let go of the bullshit.' He screams at her, "I bet the people around you have no idea how good you are at telling lies. But I'm sure they know that there's something deeply wrong with you. They just haven't been able to penetrate your FUCKED-UP BULLSHIT! You live your life resenting everyone and everything. You think you're allowed to do whatever you want because the whole world has treated you badly. Well, guess what? Addicts and alcoholics can't afford resentments. You need to get it through your head that you can't trust your thinking. Stop thinking and start talking. Let's go!"

Logan watches, terrified, as Klein grabs Veronica by the shoulders and starts to shake her. He exhales loudly when he hears her audible groan of pain. Klein says viciously, "Are you hurting, Connie? That's what it feels like to everyone around you who loves you when you use them and lie and cheat and drug your way through your life. Even your dad can't love you anymore. He can't stand to see what you're doing to your life."

"Oh god," Logan moans aloud. "Stop it, please stop." Veronica turns to look at him. He closes his eyes.

"Logan, do you want to take a break?" Friedman asks quickly. She puts the remote down and goes to him.

He murmurs, "God, he's hurting you on purpose...oh my god. Veronica, why didn't I—" He lets go of Veronica's hand and leans forward, clutching his stomach in distress. "I knew they were...I knew it." His eyes open, and he looks at her, beseechingly. "Why didn't you say the code words? God, Veronica."

She replies anxiously, "I couldn't remember them. I hurt so much...and I was so confused. I couldn't understand why you didn't come the night before. It was just like my nightmare...I couldn't decide if I was awake or not." They stare at each other, both of them anguished and upset.

"Let's take a little break," Friedman announces.

Veronica gazes into Logan's tormented face. A tear rolls down his cheek, and she reaches up to wipe it away with her thumb. "It's okay," she whispers. "I'm okay."

He laughs quietly without humor. "I'm supposed to be comforting you."

"I've already been through it. It's new for you," she says, realizing the truth of this.

Dr. Friedman says, "Let's do a little visualization exercise. Both of you close your eyes. Imagine...you're somewhere completely safe. It's beautiful, calm. Tell me where you are, Veronica."

"Our new house, in San Clemente," Veronica replies quietly, taking Logan's hand in hers and closing her eyes tightly.

"What do you see?"

"Logan's hooking up his video games...I'm making fun of him."

"What are you doing?"

"I'm making dinner...a big pot of chili. Salad. Ice cream for dessert. Dad's coming over...so's Mac. Wallace, Candice, Dick, Weevil...everyone we love is coming to be with us for our housewarming party. Everyone's happy for us."

"Logan?" Friedman prompts.

"Yeah," he replies. "I see it too."

"Breathe in and out. See every detail."

He chuckles, "Keith's bringing Backup to surprise Veronica." He squeezes her hand. "We can do this. We're going to do this."

Veronica adds, "Weevil's joking that there's a pool going on how long until our first fight."

"Foreplay," he whispers.

"What?" Friedman asks.

"Nothing," Logan and Veronica reply together, laughing quietly. They sit with their eyes closed, just breathing together for five minutes, until Veronica opens her eyes and says, "I want to keep going. I want to do this." She turns to Logan. "I'm remembering more all the time. Logan, he's going to twist my arm behind my back now. You've got to be ready. It's already happened. I'm okay. I've got to do this...I want to remember everything. Okay?"

Logan nods. "Yeah." Friedman assesses him for a long minute; he finally mumbles, "I'm okay...I know we have to do this." She hits 'play' again.

Klein is shaking Veronica on the video. She is sweating and crying, begging him to stop. Klein screams, "Tell me! I want you to use the pain to help you break through! I want to hear about the first time you really lost control doing drugs!" They watch as he pulls her arm behind her back, and Veronica screams in response.

Logan is completely unable to breathe, his eyes helplessly locked on the horrible images; Veronica's grip on his hand is painfully tight. On the video, Veronica whispers heartrendingly, "I was roofied and raped. That's the first time I...I ever blacked out. Please, I'll tell you, just...please let go of my arm."

They watch as Klein releases her arm and strokes her head in a parody of compassion. "I believe you, Connie. You just took your first step toward sanity. Now we can start our work. Love you, Connie."

They know it's coming, but still...it's creepy as hell when the girls repeat, "Love you, Connie."

Logan is whispering under his breath, "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck."

They watch as Veronica describes what happened at Shelly's party. Veronica frowns...each word slots a new memory into place. It's still jumbled, confused and jagged in her brain, but every word is familiar. She remembers the words.

On the video, she is saying, "I guess I was making out with someone who...who I don't like very much. I really don't remember, and people told me later what happened, I don't really know, I don't really know. Everyone said something different, I don't know what I really did." She sees herself shudder. She remembers trying to recall what was a real memory of Shelly's party, and what was the gossip that people had told her. She knows she was doing exactly what she's doing right now, trying to reassemble the jigsaw puzzle of her memory: what is truth, what is supposition, what is an outright lie. Veronica speaks up. "Go back...I want to watch it again."

Logan glances at her. All at once, he's incredibly proud of her. This is so painful for both of them, but he sees her face, determined and anxious to be strong again, to own her memories, and he resolves to get through it for her.

Friedman rewinds, carefully observing Veronica for any signs of emotional distress. They watch again as Veronica struggles to tell Klein about the party.

Klein says pompously, "We don't do anything when we're high that we don't secretly want to do when we're sober."

Oh, goddammit, she thinks. Yes, I remember that. I remember...so angry. So angry at him...what the fuck does he know? She listens to her feeble protests, and then she gasps audibly when she accidentally tells Klein everyone's real name. "It was a mixup. Logan and Luke and Sean got the drugs, and Luke gave it to Dick, and then Dick tried to get Madison to drink it, and she gave it to–"

And then Klein starts interrogating her for real. He's relentless and cruel, barely giving her time to protest, his voice accusing and judgmental. "You were enjoying it....It felt good to be so out of control....Maybe you thought it would feel even better if you had sex with someone....You had a few drinks, because it made it a lot easier to go after what you wanted....You were going to show your boyfriend that he was wrong, that he was a fool to let you go, so you got drunk and had sex with the first willing guy....And then when you realized what you had done, you said 'rape'. You refused to take responsibility for your actions. Come on, Connie, you're never going to get better if you don't admit it....You don't want to admit that you're a slut."

Veronica starts to hyperventilate; Klein's voice echoes in her ear. Shut up, shut up, you fucker, you don't know me, you're wrong, you're WRONG about me....

And then...

She's back in the guest bedroom at Shelly's party. Beaver's pushing her dress up, pulling her panties down. She's mumbling incoherently, trying to talk, but the words seem stuck in her mouth.

Veronica shakes her head, trying to freeze the image, make it stop, make it behave.

Beaver is fumbling with himself, his fist working up and down...wait...he's crying.

He's crying. He's sobbing as if his heart is breaking.

And then he starts cursing...'fuck them, fuck them, I'm not— Dammit, dammit.' He palms her breast, almost as if it's...it's icky. He rips off the condom and tries again, pushing at her between her legs; Veronica is stirring, trying to move, trying to reach for him, trying to figure out what's going on. It's that dream...where she's trying to move, but her muscles won't work, she can't make herself sit up no matter how hard she tries.

Veronica mumbles aloud, 'Beaver, don't....'

Friedman stops the video, and the doctor and Logan stare at Veronica as she screws her eyes tightly closed, breathing in and out, just a little too fast.

Beaver stops moving with a final curse and begins to cry helplessly, and she remembers finally managing to sit up, clumsily hugging him and asking him, her voice thick and unrecognizable, 'What's the matter, Beaver?' She watches him get dressed, completely befuddled in her memory of it. She remembers thinking, What's happening? What's going on?

And Beaver...such a guilty expression on his face...so hopeless...sad beyond description. He tries to dress her, and she just lies there watching...so confused, what's happening, what's happening? He says, his voice choked with tears, 'You're all right, Veronica, just go back to sleep.'

The room is spinning around her; she remembers being certain she was going to throw up. She protests, 'Don't go, Beaver...what's the matter?' and as he runs out of the room she collapses back onto the bed and shuts her eyes against the nausea...drifting...drifting....

Dr. Friedman has moved in front of Veronica; she kneels silently. Without touching Veronica, she whispers quietly, "You're okay, Veronica. You're okay."

"He was crying," she finally responds. "Sobbing."

Good, Logan thinks, then he remembers why Beaver was crying. We pushed him over the edge. Friedman glances at his pained expression and says strongly, "It's okay. We're all okay here." He swallows and looks away. Friedman repeats, "We're all okay here."

Veronica opens her eyes. "I don't need to watch the rest. I remember. I think I remember everything now." She stares into space, thinking, ordering her thoughts into a semblance of cohesion. Finally she explains haltingly, "Alyssa said that I needed to face up to what I was...she sent one of the girls to her office...it seemed to take so long, everyone just staring at me like they were disgusted...then when the girl came back, they held my face and....." She shudders. "They were so serious, they kept saying I needed to confront my past and admit my mistakes. And then Klein wrote on my forehead...he said I wasn't going to be allowed to wash my face for the rest of the weekend...they made me look at myself in a mirror. And then...there was a commotion." Veronica looks at Logan. "You and Kavner coming in the room. Everyone arguing...you were hugging me, telling me it was okay...then you were punching Klein."

Dr. Friedman nods. "Yes, that's right," knowing from previewing the video just what horrors were coming.

Logan whispers again, "I'm so sorry."

She clutches his hand tightly. "No, please don't be sorry. I don't want you to be sorry. It just is, okay? We're okay," Veronica stresses carefully. "It's going to be okay. It was ugly and awful but...I'm glad I know. It's better to remember. It's going to be okay."

Sat. 6/20/09: late evening, Logan and Veronica's house, San Clemente, CA

Everyone has said their goodnights, and Veronica and Logan are cleaning up from their housewarming party. Veronica thinks about her dad, doing a completely silly dance with Rebecca James watching. Her dad had proclaimed that 'kids today don't know what good music is' and marched over to the stereo. He had changed the music to a Motown greatest hits CD and began gyrating soulfully, dragging Rebecca out into the center of the living room and making an utter spectacle of himself.

Mac and Dick had traded comic barbs all night. Veronica muses that Dick was probably never going to give up, and Mac didn't seem to mind the attention as long as he mostly kept his hands to himself. Wallace and Candice had canoodled in the corner for most of the evening, and Weevil had flitted from one conversation to another, bitching about being the fifth wheel with everyone else paired off. Veronica had carefully reminded him that Mac was definitely not going out with Dick. When he replied, "So you're saying she's free?" Veronica had quickly responded, "Don't you dare," realizing just before the words left her mouth that he was pulling her leg.

When they all left, Mac had reminded her about their next girls' night out—an all-female poker tournament that Mac had heard about—and her dad had said casually, "See you Monday at the office. We got that personal injury case to get going on." And it feels really right, really okay, all her friends and family there with her, with a job that she enjoys and is good at, a new beginning with Logan—a commitment to trying like they've never tried before. Veronica is certain there are still challenges ahead, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

Logan takes her to bed, his eyes dark with lust and his body obviously aching to be with her. He makes love to her, surprising her as he always manages to do, and she thinks...this is my perfect day.


Thanks very much for reading.

If you want to know more about the fic, please go to my livejournal, where I've posted some additional material, including author's notes, trivia, and a really cool picspam.

vanessagalore•livejournal•com[slash]131938•html[pound]extras

(Replace "•" with "." "[slash]" with "/" and "[pound]" with "#")

(I'll also post this link on my profile, where it won't get perverted by the ridiculous ff interface.)