Sometimes, Veronica wished she weren't quite so well acquainted with the county jail.
"Fancy running into you here," she said, her voice ringing out loudly against the bare walls.
Logan looked up as she stopped outside his cell, and offered her a wan smile. "Yeah, it's real funny."
"I would have thought you'd be used to it by now."
He stepped forward to meet her. "So, did you just come here to gloat, or are you actually here to help me?"
"It depends," she said. "Why are you here?"
"What, your boyfriend didn't tell you already?" He looked strangely pleased for a minute, and then looked down at his hands. "It's about Hallie."
Veronica felt a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. She hadn't questioned Logan about that night; she hadn't thought she needed to.
She should have known better.
"What about Hallie?" she asked, her voice flat.
He looked up at her. "Hallie and I hooked up at the party."
She hadn't seen that one coming. Half a dozen different emotions rushed through her, and she reached for the one that seemed easiest. "And you didn't think to maybe mention this?"
"I'm sorry, I wasn't aware you were a cop now."
"But you didn't think I'd want to know? God, Logan. You couldn't have told anyone?"
Of course Dick knew. By the time she got through with him, he was going to start thinking a lot more carefully before lying to her.
"Look, I'm innocent, okay?" Logan said. "You can't seriously believe I killed her."
Could she? She had accused Logan of murder once before. He had been guilty of a lot of things over the years, but never that.
"I believe you," she said finally. "But you should have -"
"I know, okay?" He still looked worried, but less so than he had a minute ago. "I should have told you. I should tell you everything, right? Do you want to know what I had for breakfast yesterday?"
"No, it's okay. I think I had eggs. Scrambled. And then -"
"I get it, okay?" she interrupted him. "I don't need to hear about every girl you hook up with. I don't want to know about every girl you hook up with. But god, Logan, when you hook up with a girl who just happens to die ..."
Logan's face fell, and she guessed he didn't really need the reminder.
She sighed. "I'll help you with this. But I need to know everything. Were you with her when she died?"
"No," he said quietly. "I was with Dick."
"I don't know. At the party, okay?"
It wasn't much, but it didn't look like he was going to get any more specific. "And Dick will back you up on that?"
"Yeah, Dick will back me up on that." He looked resentful that she had to ask, but not surprised. "Just ask him."
She nodded. Talking to Dick Casablancas wasn't exactly something she looked forward to, but they both knew she would.
"Veronica," he said, and leaned down so his face was closer to hers. "Thanks, okay?"
She gave him a tight-lipped smile. "No problem. That's what friends are for, right?"
He laughed, as if exonerating your ex-boyfriend for the murder of one of your friend wasn't exactly what friends were for. "Yeah."
"Yeah." She took a step back. "Hey, look on the bright side. At least you got a single."
He laughed again, and she left, keeping her head down. She'd gotten in to visit Logan without having to see Lamb; she might be able to get back out, too, if she was lucky.
"Veronica," Lamb said, as if he was surprised to see her. She supposed he should be; it wasn't exactly like she'd been a regular around here lately. Then his expression drew in, became unreadable. "What are you doing here?"
"I ..." She gestured towards the cells. "I came to see Logan."
"Oh." She really wished she could have guessed what he was thinking. "So I guess a little murder charge is all it takes to make you come running, huh?"
"Logan's a friend."
"I thought Hallie was your friend."
"She was." Apparently, the time off hadn't given Lamb a chance to cool down. "Logan's innocent."
Why could the men in her life never just all get along?
"That's not what his buddies in the Pi Sig house had to say."
"The Pi Sigs told you about Logan and Hallie?" There was no honour among thieves and drunken idiots.
"Among other things."
"I'm guessing they told you about the party, too." She definitely hadn't been the one to tip him off about that, and she doubted Lamb generally kept up to date with the Greek social calendar.
Except where she was concerned, of course.
He shrugged. "I managed to drag it out of them."
She wondered if he meant that literally.
"You know," he said, stepping forward, and the look on his face wasn't quite friendly. She didn't know what it was. "I hear those cells are actually pretty romantic."
"Yeah," she said trying for levity, "but my boyfriend's the sheriff, and I don't really think he'd approve."
Lamb raised an eyebrow. "So I'm your boyfriend now?"
"What else would you be?"
"You tell me, Veronica," he said, his expression serious. "I haven't spoken to you in a month."
It couldn't have possibly been that long, she thought. There was no way she would have gone a whole month without calling him.
Yes, there is, a traitorous voice in her head whispered.
"I didn't break up with you."
He ignored her. "You know, a phone call would have been nice. It isn't exactly like you don't know where to find me."
No, it wasn't. In fact, she thought guiltily, she'd been going out of he way to avoid him.
But that didn't mean she wanted to break up with him. They'd been fighting, was all.
"My phone wasn't exactly ringing off the hook, either," she countered.
He rolled his eyes. "I tried that, remember? You dodged my calls."
Okay, there'd been that. She just hadn't felt like confronting him while they were both working on the case.
"For that matter," he said, as if he'd read her mind, "I thought I told you to stay away from this case. In fact, I'm pretty sure you promised me you would."
"I did stay away from it," she said. That was technically true; she hadn't actually gotten the chance to speak to anyone at the party about Hallie before Lamb had broken it up.
"Yeah, it sure looks that way."
"I didn't really think that applied after you started arresting people in front of me."
"Then maybe you shouldn't be hanging out with our only suspects."
Our suspects, she noted. Apparently he didn't expect her to stay off the case, any more than she intended to.
"I'm just helping out a friend," she said. "An innocent friend. And then I'm done."
He stared at her for a moment, and then nodded, almost imperceptibly.
"When all this is over ..."
He waited for her to finish, and when she didn't, he left. Honestly, she wasn't even sure what she had been going to say.
She just hoped it was all going to be over soon.
"Veronica, hey," Parker said, flinging open the door. "Are you here to see Mac? She's at class right now, but I can get her to call you when she gets home."
"Actually," Veronica said, "I'm here to see you."
Parker smiled, and Veronica felt suitably guilty as she followed her into the room.
Her weekend had been a supreme waste of time. Dick was obviously avoiding her, which she hadn't actually thought he was capable of. Apparently high school had taught him something, after all. Her sources at the Neptune Grand told her he hadn't been back to Logan's, and the Pi Sigs had claimed no knowledge of his whereabouts. She didn't believe it for a second, but they were impressively loyal to one of their own, even if it hadn't stopped them turning in Logan.
Coming to see Parker was a last resort, and one she'd been putting off. But if Parker had been at party the night Hallie died, she might have seen something, and any information Veronica could get right now was better than nothing.
"So," Parker said, sitting on the bed. "What did you want?"
Veronica paused. "You were at the Theta Beta luncheon."
"Mmm-hmm." She nodded.
"Did you go to the party that night?"
Parker looked surprised. She obviously hadn't been expecting Veronica to question her about Hallie. "Yeah."
"Did you see Logan there?"
"Is this about Logan getting arrested?" Parker asked.
"Maybe," Veronica said. "Have you been to see him?"
Parker shook her head. "No."
"Did you see him at the party?"
Parker was beginning to look decidedly uncomfortable, as if she'd rather not talk about it. Veronica pressed on, anyway.
"Did you know he hooked up with Hallie that night?"
For a minute, Veronica thought Parker wasn't going to answer, and then she nodded. "That's why I left."
"Did you see either of them after that?"
"I didn't see Logan."
Parker looked at her curiously. "What's this about?"
Veronica bit her lip. "I'm just trying to find out everything I can. Lamb thinks that Logan hooking up with Hallie at the party is grounds for suspecting him, and -"
"Is it grounds for suspecting me?"
Veronica looked at her, shocked.
"I mean, that's why you're asking me all this, right? You think I was jealous of Logan, and you think -"
"Are you accusing me of something?"
"Should I be?"
Wow, was that the wrong thing to say. Parker jumped up from the bed, and Veronica hurriedly looked away. "Seriously?"
"Did you see Hallie after she was with Logan?"
"No," Parker said, her voice barely even.
"Then I'm not accusing you of anything."
Parker looked unconvinced.
"I swear. That wasn't what I meant. I'm just trying to find some answers."
Parker didn't say anything, and she wasn't looking at Veronica.
"I'm sorry, okay?"
Parker glanced over, and her expression softened a little. "I'm sorry you lost your friend."
Veronica supposed that was something close to forgiveness. And if it took Parker thinking that her actions had been caused by grief-stricken irrationality rather than a pathological inability to trust people, that was okay with her.
She sighed as she left Parker's room, resisting the urge to bang her head against the wall. She was still exactly nowhere on the case, and now she'd nearly lost another friend over it.
This was going really well.
"Dude, you better -"
Dick stopped suddenly when he saw Veronica, his expression frozen.
"I thought you were Sumpter."
"Sorry to disappoint," she said. "But now that you're finally here, I need to talk to you."
"Actually, I'm -"
"Now," she said, and he shrugged, taking a step forward and closing the door behind him.
"So, does this mean you're not just going to let Logan rot in jail?"
"That really depends on you," she said. "Were you with Logan at the party?"
"Yeah. You saw me there, remember?"
She didn't answer that. She was planning on blocking all party-related Dick encounters out of her memory completely. "Were you with him when Hallie died?"
"How am I supposed to -"
She gave him a look, and he rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, okay? I was with Logan. Are we done now?"
"No. Did you know he was with Hallie that night?"
Dick shrugged. She waited.
Eventually, he gave in. "Sure."
"And you didn't think to mention this when I asked you what you saw at the party?"
"What, like everything's your business now?"
"Yes," she said. "What happened that night?"
"Look, I don't know all the details, okay? They hooked up. Whatever. The next time I saw her, she was off with a couple of the brothers. I guess she got sick of Logan."
Veronica waited until Dick was looking at her, and held his gaze. "Now, I want you to think really, really hard. And if you lie to me again, I can promise you'll be sharing a cell with Logan before you can blink. Who were the Pi Sigs Hallie was with?"
Dick looked, for a minute, as if he was going to call her bluff, but then apparently thought better of it. "I'm not a hundred percent sure, okay?"
"I really don't care. Who were they?"
He shrugged. "I think one of them was Andrews."
"Andrews got a first name?"
"Robbie," he said reluctantly.
"Is he here?"
Dick moved a little to block the door as she stepped forward. "He's not here. He's on campus."
"How should I know? I'm not his mother." He looked nervous, but she thought he was probably telling the truth. "All I know is, he usually get home late."
She nodded, slowly. "If I find out there's anything you aren't telling me -"
"It's the truth, I swear." Now he wasn't so much nervous as he was nearly panicking. And she hadn't even had to pull her taser. "That's all I know."
And it was all he'd ever know, if it turned out he'd been lying to her even a little bit.
It wasn't difficult to track down Robbie Andrews' class schedule, and an hour later, Veronica was waiting for him in the hall. As he left the classroom, she fell into step beside him.
"Robbie," she said, and he looked over at her.
"Yeah. Who are you?"
"Veronica," she said. "I was a friend of Hallie's."
He stopped, and a flicker of something - guilt, maybe - crossed his face. "Yeah, I know you. You're a Theta Beta."
Great. Was that really what she was going to be remembered for after she graduated?
"I want to know what happened to Hallie on the night she died."
He looked away; he'd obviously never read the memo on how not to appear guilty while being questioned. "I already told the sheriff -"
"I don't care what you told the sheriff," she said. "I want to know the truth."
He swallowed. "It's just like I said. I don't know what happened to her, okay? I was -"
"With her when she died," Veronica interrupted. He looked surprised. "Yeah, one of your frat brothers caved."
"I don't know what you're talking about," he insisted. Not very convincingly, but she had to give him points for effort.
He started walking away, and Veronica had to hurry to follow him.
"Of course, if you don't want to talk to me, I could just go talk to my boyfriend. You know, the sheriff? Tell him about those two assault charges against you, and the restraining order your girlfriend put out. I doubt those thing would look very good on a guy who's being accused of murder."
That got him to stop. "You think Hallie was murdered?"
She gave him a long look. "Okay, then, what's your take on it? It was an accident? You were drunk? She was asking for it?"
"I didn't kill her!" he shouted. A few people in the hallway turned to look at them, but kept walking.
Veronica raised an eyebrow. "It doesn't look that way to me. And I don't think it'll look that way to the sheriff, either."
"Look," Robbie said, lowering his voice. "I didn't kill her."
"Then what did happen?"
He glanced away, and then shrugged, apparently resigned. "It was an accident, okay?"
"So, what? You didn't mean to kill her, but -"
"No," he said quickly. "I mean, it was an accident."
He sighed then, and looked down, not volunteering anything else.
"What kind of accident?" Veronica pressed. She really didn't like the way this was headed. Thinking that Hallie was murdered had been bad enough, but thinking that she wasn't ...
"We were drinking," Robbie said. "It was stupid, okay? But we were really drunk."
"What was stupid?" she asked.
"We were really drunk," he said again. As if that was somehow the most salient point. "There were a few of us, and we were just ... I don't know. We were daring each other to drink stupid stuff."
Sinking feeling, check. "Like drain cleaner?"
He shook his head. "It didn't start like that. It was just shots, mostly. Then one of the guys started mixing these drinks. Stupid stuff, you know? Like beer and orange juice, or whiskey and tequila."
Veronica waited. She didn't think he needed any more prompting. Once people got to the confessional stage, it was usually better to just sit back and let them talk.
"Then they started looking around for other stuff to add. And it was right there, when we looked under the sink. They started saying it would be funny, you know, to drink it. Kind of daring each other. One of them put it in her drink, and ... I don't know. We said she'd never drink it."
"And then she did," Veronica said flatly.
"Yeah," he said. "She did. And at first it was funny, you know, 'cause she looked like she was going to puke, and then ..."
"She died," she said. She didn't know if Robbie had even heard her.
"We just panicked. I mean, it wasn't like we meant to kill her, but ..."
He trailed off, not looking at Veronica any more. She couldn't look at him, either.
"Turn yourself in," she said, after a minute or two had passed. "To the sheriff. Go tell him what you told me."
"No way," he said, backing up. "It was an accident, we didn't mean to -"
"I don't care!" Veronica yelled. She didn't care that people were now staring at her, either. "Turn yourself in, or I will."
"You don't have any proof," he said, and she shook her head.
"No," she agreed, and pulled the tape recorder out of her bag. "But I do have this."
Robbie's eyes went wide, and he didn't need to know that she had never switched it on. Even without it, she could get Lamb to believe her story.
"Whoa," he said. "Come on, let's -"
"No," she said. "Either you turn yourself in, or this is going straight to the sheriff. You can take bets on whether or not he'll believe you that it was an accident."
It almost looked like Robbie was smiling. "They were right about you."
"Right?" Veronica asked, and he shrugged.
"People talk. They say things about you."
"All good things, I hope."
He shook his head, but she didn't think it was in response to her statement. "I didn't believe them."
"Well, maybe now you'll listen," she said. "You have until the end of the day to turn yourself in."
Veronica took a strange sort of comfort in knowing that people still talked about her. It beat being known only as a sorority girl, at any rate.
She wished she could feel as good about knowing what had happened to Hallie.
"Veronica," Landry said, and she looked up. "So, have you got any new leads on your murder mystery?"
"Actually," she said, pulling a folder out of her bag, "I finished my assignment."
He took the folder, looking a little surprised. "It's early."
She shrugged. "You said we could turn them in any time before the end of the semester."
"So I did," he said. "Are you sure you don't want a couple of extra weeks to go over it?"
"I'm sure," she said. She'd be happy to never have to look at it again.
He nodded. "All right, then, I'm impressed. I look forward to reading it. I'm sure you've done an excellent job."
"Yeah," she said, with slightly less enthusiasm. "Me, too."
Veronica had put off going to see Lamb for long enough. Avoiding him once had already caused enough problems between them, and she wasn't keen to repeat the experience. Whatever her issues with relationships, and whatever their past had been, she wasn't ready to let their relationship go.
She just hoped she could convince him of that.
She smiled politely at Inga as she entered, and made her way through to Lamb's office. He was sitting at his desk, and he got up when he saw her.
"I heard you caught the guys who were with Hallie," she said, by way of greeting. "Congratulations."
He studied her. "And I suppose you had nothing to do with that?"
She didn't answer him.
"Veronica," he said, and shook his head. "I told you to stay away from the case."
"And I ignored you," she said.
"You could have put yourself in danger."
"What danger?" she asked. "There was no killer. Just a bunch of stupid frat guys who thought it would be funny to put drain cleaner in somebody's drink."
"You didn't know that."
"No," she said. "And it wouldn't have stopped me."
He was looking at a spot over her shoulder, his jaw clenched tightly, as if he were trying hard not to scream at her.
"Besides," she said. "I helped you catch the guys, didn't I?"
"So, what? I'm supposed to thank you now?" He turned to look at her, and she almost wished he hadn't. "Gee, thanks, Veronica, for doing my job for me."
"I didn't mean it like that," she protested.
"Then what did you mean? That I can't be trusted to solve a case on my own? That I can't do my job?"
She didn't answer him.
"I told you I'd handle it, and you went ahead and looked into it anyway."
"Because Hallie was my friend," she said. "I can't just sit back and wait for something to happen. It's not who I am."
He was silent for a minute. "I know it's not who you are."
"And you wish you could change me?"
"No," he said, taking a step forward. "I don't."
Well, that was out there. Neither of them said anything for a while, and then he stepped around her, closing the door.
"What?" she asked. "Are you going to throttle me?"
"I'm thinking about it."
She offered him a weak smile.
"You know, those guys aren't going to be very happy with you."
"I know," she said. Dean O'Dell had already passed down the verdict on the Pi Sigs; the fraternity was being suspended for the rest of the year, pending good behaviour. It didn't look good for them. The Theta Betas had mostly escaped further punishment, despite Hallie's role in what had happened; she supposed that was the college's way of trying to be sensitive about her death. Veronica didn't think there were going to be any more parties any time soon, though.
Kelly should be relieved.
She shrugged. "I've had enemies before. Usually they're pig-headed men with guns and uniforms."
Lamb looked like he was trying to be offended. "So now I'm pig-headed?"
"Not just now," she said. "Besides, who said I was talking about you?"
"No, you were very subtle," he agreed. "And I happen to know a certain blonde PI who doesn't know when to stop investigating things that are none of her business."
"Hmm." She pretended to think. "Nope, sorry. Doesn't ring a bell."
"Must be my other girlfriend, then."
"So now I'm your girlfriend?"
He looked unimpressed. "Do you really want to start that again?"
"No." She shook her head. "Definitely not."
"Good." He started advancing on her. "Because I've always had this fantasy about you and my desk -"
She shot a look behind him at the closed door, and he smirked.
"Don't worry," he assured her. "I sent Sacks out on a house call. He should be gone for a while."
"In that case," she said, leaning back against the desk, "tell me about this fantasy."