Chapter 36 Mental Floss
Back at home on Sunday afternoon, Logan and Veronica were up in their room, unpacking. Logan threw most of his clothes into the dirty laundry hamper. He wadded up one item and tossed it onto the small trash can near the bed. Recognizing the shorts he'd worn the day before, Veronica asked what was wrong with them.
"Button popped off." He said.
"You don't throw away a perfectly good pair of shorts just because they're missing a button!" she said as she pulled the shorts out of the trash.
"They're not perfectly good." Logan explained. "Without a button, they're perfectly useless."
Veronica just shook her head and opened the drawer on her bedside table, taking out her emergency repair kit. Reattaching buttons and repairing torn hemlines were only two of the survival skills she had acquired since her mother had abandoned her back in high school. She doubted if Logan even knew that there was a spare button sewn into the shorts for just such an occurance. She snipped it out and threaded her needle and began to stitch, wondering what it would have been like, growing up in a world of disposable clothes.
Logan bounced on downstairs to see how JR had managed hanging the new paintings.
"Nice!" he nodded with approval, seeing the large canvas in the dining room.
"Yeah, it's a beautiful painting." JR said. "You don't think it's a bit personal for the kitchen?"
"It's a chick hanging laundry." Logan shrugged. JR peered at him, his eyes narrowed speculatively. "What?"
"Have you ever known anyone who did that?" JR pointed at the painting.
"Lots of people do laundry." Logan protested. "Probably."
"Yeah, just not any of the people you've ever known." JR said.
"It's a chick hanging laundry!" Logan repeated.
"It's more than that! It's a moment in time; early in the morning of a summer day, not a cloud in the sky. There's a lovely young woman, looking content to be doing homey chores."
"So what's your point?" Logan frowned.
"This painting is the embodiment of the perfect home life you've always wanted and never thought you would have." JR said, animatedly. "It captures the breathtaking beauty of ordinary life!"
Logan stared at him for a moment, his upper lip curled in an expression of distaste.
"I hate it when you try to psychoanalyze me." He said.
"I know." JR admitted. "That's what makes it so much fun."
"I like it because she looks like Veronica." Logan nodded at the blonde in the painting. Then he left JR standing there and went to get some ice water out of the refrigerator.
"Huh." JR muttered, squinting at the canvas. "She does kinda look like Mars."
"Oh. Yes. That's perfect." Veronica said happily, as JR hung the painting she had brought home from Duluth in the library.
JR stepped back and looked at the picture of a shirtless boy reading on the bank of a river.
"Wow." He said. "I'm amazed by how he got the water so simply and yet so…"
"Me too." Veronica knew exactly what JR meant. "You can practically hear it bubbling over the rocks. I knew I had to have this one the second I saw it. It's called Tom Sawyer. At first, you might think the title refers to the boy, alone but at home in the woods by the river but then you notice; he's reading a book and not just any book; the Great American Novel. It's like; what everyone wishes their childhood summers had been. It's a world that's so safe that kids can just take off on their own into the woods. There's no danger lurking in those trees; he's as secure as if he were in his own room. It's the ideal childhood. I love it!"
"Let me guess;" JR said dryly, "he looks like Logan did when he was a kid."
"Only if you switched out the woods for a mansion, the creek for a swimming pool, the rocks for a chaise lounge and the book for an issue of Hustler magazine." She raised an eyebrow. "Come on, Jeff. I'm a little more complex than that."
The three days spent surfing Lake Superior had invigorated Logan. Monday morning, he immersed himself in work; he had been writing for several hours when he was disturbed by his cell phone.
Seeing Dick's name on the display, he picked up.
"Pretty early in the day for drunk dialing, Casablancas." He said.
"Dude, are you okay?" Dick asked.
"Uh…I'm fine. Why?"
"Oh man." Dick sounded agitated and Dick never let anything agitate him. "It's your sister."
"What happened to Trina?" Logan was surprised by the cold jolt that ran down his spine at the thought that something had happened to his older sister.
"She's fine, dude. She's everywhere."
"What do you mean?" Logan demanded, relieved.
"I can't turn on the TV, go online or walk past a magazine rack without seeing her stupid face!" Dick exclaimed. "It's like she's stalking me. I figured if she was driving me nuts, she must be making you howl like a monkey!"
"No howling around here." Logan assured him. "Are you saying her show is a hit?"
"A hit? It's all anyone's talking about. She was on The View this morning!"
"The View?" Logan could hardly believe his good luck. A warm, unfamiliar feeling flooded his being.
"Dude. That is not what I want to see when I'm eating breakfast."
"So turn the channel."
"Mel loves that shit." Dick sighed. "So how are things in Mindeanola?"
"I have no idea."
"Surf's rising." Dick informed him. "When you coming back here to catch some waves with me?"
"Soon." Logan assured him. The trip to Duluth had whetted his appetite for surfing. He liked wind surfing but he hadn't realized how much he missed the big waves until the opportunity of surfing the Great Lake had come up.
After he'd finished talking to Dick, Logan steeled himself for a call he never thought he'd make.
"LOGAN!" Trina's voice pierced his eardrum. "You little shit, I've been trying to get a hold of you for weeks. That number you gave me didn't work!"
"I know, sorry about that." He said, insincerely.
"No you're not." Trina sounded delighted to have caught him in a lie. "You can always get me but I can never get you. What's up with that?"
"I don't know. Hey, look; word has made it out to the raggedy edge that your show's a hit. Congratulations."
"You are so sweet! It is a hit! I'm a hit!" she crooned. "They can't get enough of me. I'm Brilliant!"
"I heard you did The View."
"Oh, those gals are so sweet; they just loved me! Do you get The View where you are? Wherever that is?"
"I don't know."
"You can probably see my View on Youtube."
"Oh stop. And you can relax, Yogi. I've been doing interviews and spreads for weeks now and I haven't mentioned you even once since you asked me not to."
"I knew you could keep it all about you if you just put your mind to it."
"Snotty little prick." She said, affectionately. "You're going to have to start treating me with a little more respect; I own this town."
"But I'm not in that town." He couldn't resist taunting her.
"You wouldn't believe it if you were here!" Trina launched into a long, excited recital of all the people clamoring for her attention, photos, interviews… in short, she was living out the exact dream she'd had since she was old enough to sit up. "Who would have guessed it, Yogi? Turns out I was wasting my time with all those medical and cop dramas; I was born to play comedy!"
"Which is really strange since you're not funny." Logan pointed out enthusiastically.
"I don't have to be!" Trina said, happily. "The writers are funny for me! Turns out all those years of listening to you have honed my timing to perfection!"
"Glad to have been of service."
"You've been more useful than you even know. It seems that rumor I started about you maybe doing a guest spot generated enough buzz to get everyone's attention. We were the hottest new show of the season before we even aired. Then, turns out, we're really funny! After two episodes our ratings were fantastic and no one even remembers that old rumor!"
"Sounds like you're finally getting everything you ever wanted." Logan said, feeling very weird about that.
"Not everything." Trina said. "But I will if you promise to be my date to at least one event during awards season."
"No." Logan's knee jerk reaction had nothing to do with Trina; it was the flashback to the summer before senior year when he'd been hounded by press and photographers as an accused killer but Trina couldn't know that. She hadn't been in Neptune when all that happened and she had never really given her little brother's travails any thought. It had never occurred to her that infamy was a different experience than fame. All she heard was the loathing in her brother's voice. There was a long pause on the line after his terse refusal.
"Logan, why do you hate me?" she finally asked.
"I thought you were done with melodrama." Logan replied impatiently. "I don't hate you. I just can't get all warm and fuzzy over someone who told the world I was a liar."
"I never called you a liar." She said petulantly.
"You referred to me as 'A kid with an over active imagination and an acute sense of personal drama.' People knew what you meant."
"That's not the same thing at all! You do have a wild imagination and you always were very self protective—"
"He beat the shit out of me, Trina!" He cut her off. "He did it all the time!"
"He accidently broke your nose, once."
"It wasn't an accident and you only saw him do it once!" He shouted into the phone. "I may have an active imagination but I have a firm grip on reality and I didn't imagine all the scars and bruises did I? And I never fell down the stairs in my life!"
"Ugh, you mean that time you broke your arm?"
"Collar bone." Logan corrected her with the impatience of one who has been making the same correction for years.
"What, I suppose he pushed you?" she asked sarcastically.
"NO he didn't push me." Logan took a deep breath. "HE THREW ME."
Logan seethed through another long pause on the phone. He thought perhaps his sister had hung up on him and was about to end the call when he heard a small sound.
"oh god." Trina's voice was barely more than a whisper. "That happened the day you wrecked my bike, didn't it?"
Logan had been seven when Trina had gotten a beautiful, high tech, twenty-one speed bicycle for her thirteenth birthday. He had been fascinated by the bike and as soon as Trina wasn't looking, had tried to ride it down the driveway. He'd been way too small for it, lost control and hit the stone wall which had made short work of the bike's lightweight frame. Trina had found him, scraped, bleeding and enraged, kicking her mangled new bike and naturally, she had freaked out. No thirteen year old girl on earth would give her seven year old brother a thought under the circumstances and she hadn't. She'd taken one look at the bent frame and run screaming and crying to her parents.
She had grown up hero worshipping her Daddy. She thought he was the smartest, strongest, bravest, most handsome man on earth. There was nothing unusual in that; most little girls feel that way about their daddies. The difference was that the rest of the world agreed with Trina. Everywhere they went, people adored him; every magazine cover, every movie poster, every televised puff piece reinforced Trina's vision of Aaron the Magnificent. No whiny brat of a little brother telling ridiculous stories could compete with that.
For some reason, the memory of her bicycle and her brother with his arm in a sling jogged another, even less pleasant memory; the way Aaron had dealt with that asshole, Dylan Goran, at that fiasco of a dinner meeting. That had been the only time Trina had ever seen her father like that. Aaron had always been Trina's champion. He went berserk at the thought of anyone hurting her. Five years after her father's death, she was finally able to connect certain events from her past and for the first time; it crossed her mind to wonder what defense a seven year old boy would have had against such fury.
Or a seventeen year old girl.
"Jesus Christ." She breathed into the phone. "He…Jesus Christ."
"Hey Trine, I'm sorry." Logan sighed. He wished he'd shut his stupid mouth right after 'congratulations'. "I didn't call you up to yell at you…I don't hate you, I—"
"I gotta go, Logan." Trina cut him off, sounding distracted. "I gotta go."
The line went dead.
Logan looked at his phone, feeling like a complete asshat.
"That went well." He sighed. Then he dialed another number.
"Hey kid," Charlie answered, "what's up?"
"Oh. I was going to leave you a message." Logan said, surprised that his older brother had answered. "Aren't you in class?"
"Your timing is perfect; you caught me while I've got a free period. What's so important that you had to hear my voice? Usually all I get are emails and texts."
"I just called Trina to congratulate her on her show being a hit."
"You called her?" Charlie was impressed. He knew all about the problematic relationship between his biological half brother and sister. In fact, while he and Logan had become fairly close in the past four years, which was practically a miracle considering how they found out about each other and the way Logan had outed Charlie, Trina refused to acknowledge Charlie at all. She said that since he was merely an illegitimate half brother and she was adopted, he was no relation at all. This made no sense but neither did any of Trina's other positions. Regardless of that, Charlie had been a tireless champion of the idea that Logan should do whatever he could to maintain the relationship. He thought it was stupid to discard family, no matter how ditzy a sister she was and from what Logan had told him he was convinced that Trina didn't have a malicious bone in her body. She may be self centered and spoiled but Charlie was convinced that she really did love her younger brother. So he was pleased to hear that Logan had reached out to Trina. "Good for you!"
"Not so good." Logan sighed. "Two minutes into the conversation, I was ripping her head off."
"Oh." Charlie groaned. "What is wrong with you?"
"I don't know. Apparently the depths of my rage are deeper than I knew."
"Look, you had every right to be pissed off but it's over. It's done. Let it go."
"So far, no good."
"Sack up, kid." Charlie had very little sympathy for the trials and tribulations of having grown up Aaron Echolls' acknowledged son and heir. His hard headed honesty was one of the reasons Logan liked him so much. The last thing Logan wanted was someone to feel sorry for him. "What good does all that anger do you now? If Aaron was still alive and there was a chance you could beat the shit out of him, then it might come in handy but since he's not, just get over it."
"Easy for you to say!" Logan protested.
"What, you think I was never angry?" Charlie asked. "He knocked up my Mom and then bought us off. He paid her to go away and so I was left to grow up fatherless. When you're a kid, you don't look at life logically and realize you're probably much better off without the asshole who treats his offspring like an embarrassing secret anymore than you think of your mom as the most expensive piece of ass he ever tapped. You just want a dad; like other kids."
"Did you just refer to your Mom as a piece of ass?" Logan laughed.
"Only to illustrate the point that you can't blame your sister for what happened to you if you won't even blame your mother."
"Trina was just another kid growing up in that house. What you have is an extreme but classic case of sibling rivalry, which she won, hands down. She was Aaron's princess and you were his whipping boy. But what about Lynn?"
"What about her?" Logan demanded. He got very defensive when anyone criticized his mom. "She hated him, too."
"If she had loved him to distraction she would have had at least a lame excuse for not protecting her son but you say she hated him, so the fact that she didn't take you and high tail it the first time he laid a hand on you is disgraceful." Charlie ignored Logan's indignant sputter and charged on. "I know you loved your mom and I believe that she loved you but it's a pretty shabby love that stands by during that kind of abuse."
"It killed her!"
"She killed herself, Logan." Charlie said, bluntly. "Your mother was not a passive observer in her life. She chose Aaron, she chose to stay, she sacrificed you and when it got to be too much she jumped off a bridge. The Lynn Echolls' story doesn't have much a heroine."
"Fuck you." There was no force behind Logan's curse. He and Charlie had had this conversation before and it was getting harder all the time to take up his mother's cause.
"She was a shitty mother to you, the son of her own body. What kind of a mother do you think she was to Trina? What was Trina, four years old when her Dad married Lynn? Do you think she was overjoyed to be sharing her hero with another woman? Do you think Lynn went out of her way to make Trina feel safe, secure and loved? Trina knew she was adopted; an outsider. Do you know what a four year old calls the woman who marries her father? An Evilstepmother. That's one word, emphasis on 'evil'. Trina probably thought that if she pissed Lynn off, she'd wind up locked in a tower or living as an indentured maid somewhere."
"You don't know Trina." Logan interrupted with at snort. "She would have loved the idea of being persecuted."
"At four? She would have been terrified because she would have believed it. My guess is that Aaron overcompensated with Trina and he never stopped. I'm no shrink but—"
"Fuck no; trained therapists are supposed to be non judgmental!"
"Hey, you want no judgment, call someone else. The yellow pages are full of licensed professionals who will hold your hand and pass no judgment. At $300.00 an hour, they'll let you wallow for the rest of your life. You called me because you know that even if I'm wrong, I won't tell you lies you want to hear."
"It must be awesome to always be the smartest guy in the room." Logan spat, sarcastically.
"It must suck to always be the angriest guy in the room." Charlie was unfazed.
"Fuck you again!"
"Oh, good point." Charlie said pleasantly. "I take it all back."
At that, Logan began to laugh, despite himself. Like Veronica, Charlie was always able to get him to see the ridiculous side of himself. There had been very few others who had ever dared to do such a thing. Logan never thought about it, but it was one of the things he had valued most about Duncan. Since Lilly's death, Duncan had been too medicated and traumatized himself to retain the knack and Logan had missed it. It was one of his favorite things about his brother.
"Fine." He grunted. "What were you gonna say?"
"Your trouble with Aaron probably began the day you were born. Babies think their mom's are the sun and stars and dad's are just the extra grownup. A narcissist of the magnitude of Aaron Echolls would have resented the hell out of that even if you were his own son. As if that weren't bad enough, you probably hogged the spotlight that Lynn had previously reserved for only him, which wouldn't have endeared you to him. And you know; the fact that he was a violent psychopath probably didn't help. That's not Trina's fault any more than it was your fault that you couldn't stay out of his crosshairs. It was all on your parents, Logan; they were the adults."
"You don't know what it was like. My Mom was a victim, too."
"Logan," Charlie sighed, "Lynn may have been a dear, sweet, lovely and gracious woman but the fact remains; she didn't protect her son. You should stop blaming Trina for that. Okay, you're going to hate my next question but give it some serious thought anyway; How do you feel right now?"
"Like punching you in the face." Logan answered immediately. "You're lucky you're not here."
"We're both lucky I'm not there." Charlie grinned, not the least impressed by his younger brother's violent rhetoric. "I don't mean in a 'Kumbaya, how does it make you feel' way. I mean; are you happy at this moment?"
"I'd be a lot happier if my hands were around your throat."
"Really? My throat, or Trina's? Or Aaron's?"
"Aaron's dead." Logan muttered.
"And rotting in his grave." Charlie nodded. "Just think how ugly his corpse must be by now."
"Sexiest man alive, all corpsified and gross." Logan laughed. "Now that his face matches his soul, we should dig him up and show the world! Man, he'd hate that."
"You know what else he'd probably hate? You and Trina, happy without him. You called 'cuz you feel like shit, don't you?"
"He'd love that."
"I don't know what to do…" Logan sighed. "I don't even know if I want to keep trying. It always ends in a fight."
"What was the fight about this time?"
"I…it…You know, I don't even care that she never believed he knocked me around. That was nothing; but she still doesn't think he killed Lilly! She thinks the acquittal proves he was innocent! She doesn't believe he tried to kill Veronica!"
"Maybe she can't. Logan, did you ever wonder what kind of an emotional toll it would take on Trina to look at her father through your eyes? She doesn't have the reserves to handle it; she's not that deep."
"What do you mean?"
"You make it a choice between you or her entire life. Actually, when you take it all into consideration, it's amazing that she still wants to have anything to do with you."
"Come on, Logan! You're the kid who spent his whole life trying to tear down her idol, culminating in the testimony that was supposed to land her hero father on death row. She must love you an awful lot not to hate your guts."
Logan didn't answer.
"Trina's worst sins are that she's lazy and self absorbed." Charlie went on. "From what you've told me, you've put up with much worse character traits in the people in your life."
"You're right. She's practically a saint." Logan muttered sarcastically.
"You're never going to change her. If you want to be able to have a conversation with your sister, which doesn't end with you feeling like shit, you'll have to change your own attitude towards her. Stop expecting her to suddenly see things your way, it's never gonna happen. She is who she is and it's not all bad."
"She..." picked me up when I couldn't drive. Found me when I'd lost my car. Didn't rat me out when I puked all over hers. Kept them away when I was hungover and sick. "…had her uses."
"You really can't expect any more than that from a big sister."
"You don't even have any sisters. How do you know all this shit?"
"I work in a high school. And this stuff isn't exactly brain surgery." Charlie laughed. "Look, I gotta go; my free period is over. Apologize to Trina. Stop opening old wounds."
"I doubt if she'll take my call again."
"Send her flowers. Write her a letter. Turn on the charm. You're supposed to be good at that."
Veronica gave Johnson her report on the auction up in Duluth, then returned to her cubicle to enter all the data into her investigation. As she suspected, nothing connected to what she already had but she was able to enter more buyers and artist's work into the equation. As with any investigation, the more information the better until such a time as one could confidently begin to eliminate possibilities. She was a little disappointed to find that Agent Morris hadn't been foaming at the bit over her leaving town. In fact, no one had seen Morris since she had grilled Veronica. It was assumed that she had returned to the west coast field office whence she'd come.
"I've looked at the case file. She doesn't seem to have anything concrete." Veronica told Tuski and Shep at lunch at the Longfellow Cafe. "I'm beginning to think she just felt like shaking my tree."
"In most abductions, if the victim isn't found within seventy two hours, it doesn't end well." Tuski recited the well known bureau statistics. "This one's been open nearly five years. That would be enough to drive me crazy."
"Its been twenty one years since Jacob Wetterling was abducted." Shep remarked. "The guys who worked that one have either moved on or retired but the case is still open. You can't let the losses outweigh the wins."
"That poor kid was eleven when he disappeared." Tuski said. "The only way he's still alive is if he suffered massive head trauma and acute amnesia."
"Smart money says that kid's been dead since the day he vanished." Shep said grimly.
"Well, Agent Morris can relax on one thing," Veronica said firmly. "Faith Manning isn't dead. If fact, being with her father was by far the best option that baby had. Her maternal grandparents were monsters. Meg was terrified that her parents might get custody of her baby."
"Was she?" Tuski asked.
"They were emotionally abusing her little sister, Grace. They kept her in a closet and made her fill notebooks with self incriminating lines. Duncan and I knew about it and the Mannings knew we did. I have reason to believe the Sheriff believed our story but he…was killed before he could find proof. I was upfront with Agent Morris." Veronica said, holding to her official story. "I never wanted them to catch Duncan. Should he have hired a lawyer and sued for custody legally? Sure. But in addition to his health problems, he would have had to fight his own parents as well as the Mannings. How much influence do you think a billion dollars buys in family court? Jake and Celeste Kane couldn't accept that their perfect son had fathered a baby in high school. I know the Kanes; there are no lengths they wouldn't go to if they believed it was in Duncan's best interest, even if it went directly against his own wishes. They obstructed the investigation of the murder of their own daughter to protect him. They would never have let him take on the responsibility of an illegitimate child."
"But that baby is their flesh and blood, too!" Tuski protested.
"That doesn't count for as much as you might think." Veronica said, remembering Jake and Celeste's treatment of her when they believed she was Jake's progeny. "I'm sure they thought he'd get over it. They didn't understand their son at all. What Duncan did was against the law but it wasn't wrong and I've never lost a wink of sleep over it. I'm proud of him for doing right by his daughter."
"With that attitude, you can't really blame Morris for thinking you may have held out on her." Shep said with a shrug. "After all, you were pretty close to both the baby's parents and you didn't hide the fact that you were okay with Duncan taking the baby and running."
"You know, shortly after I found out that he'd knocked up a friend of mine, I caught the town skank naked in his shower and it turned out that wasn't the first time she'd been there!" Veronica pointed out. "What seems more likely to you; that I was fed up with his unfaithfulness but was happy to see him step up to his responsibility or that a high school senior could mastermind an escape to evade the feds? Whatever happened to Occam's Razor?"
"I'd have dumped his cheating ass." Tuski snorted.
"You wanting nothing to do with Duncan and his little bastard, no matter how cute she may have been, does seem the simpler explanation." Shep conceded. "But after all this time, you can't blame an agent for second guessing herself."
"She actually suggested that my Honeymoon was staged as cover for a clandestine meeting with my ex." Veronica shook her head in wonder. "That woman has an imagination!"
"You should have introduced her to your husband," Tuski chortled. "You could have cleared up that little misunderstanding in a heart throb, I mean beat."
"But she must have interviewed him at the time!" Shep pointed out. "I mean; they lived together!"
"She—" Veronica blinked in surprise and looked at Shep. Tuski looked sheepish but Shep just rolled his eyes.
"We're FBI, Mars." He reminded her. "Of course we know who Logan is."
Veronica let out an indignant puff of breath. "Does everyone know?" she asked.
"Don't think so." Shep shrugged. "Why would they care? Look, we get why you'd rather not have it common knowledge; there's a lot of bad shit associated with his name."
"None of which was his fault!" Veronica bristled. "Well, not the really bad stuff, anyway. He was certainly wild but he was never dangerous. Well, not to anyone but himself…and, um…people who really deserved it. He was never convicted of anything. How long have you known?"
"Since the second he bounced into your kitchen." Tuski told her. "Although that house tipped us off that something was up."
"But you never said anything, so we were happy to just go with it." Shep said. "It's your business and you know; so what?"
"Actually," Veronica admitted, "Larson knows. He didn't give me this case just on the strength of Logan's money; he knew Logan's name would get us access to the inner sanctum."
"Well, like I said before," Tuski assured her, "Solve the case and shove it up their ass."
"Are…okay, don't bite my head off but are you absolutely positive that Logan didn't help his buddy escape?" Shep asked.
"Absolutely." Veronica laughed grimly. "At the time, Logan had his hands a little too full, trying to avoid being prosecuted for the murder of Felix Toombs. If your aim is to disappear, you don't ask for the help of someone wearing an ankle monitor. Ironically, that monitor is probably the only thing that kept Logan from being the primary suspect instead of me. Even so, I gave the feds a list of all the properties Logan had access to, in case Duncan was hiding out domestically but they never found any evidence that he had used any of them. Honestly, there's not much that Logan would have enjoyed more than helping Duncan grab that baby and run but under the circumstances, he wouldn't have been any use at all. Duncan wouldn't have gotten very far with Logan's help."
"Is it possible that the two of them have been in contact in the years since then?" Shep asked.
"No." Veronica shook her head. "He'd have told me."
"Would he?" Tuski looked skeptical. "Especially now, that would put you in a pretty tight corner; you'd be legally bound to tell Morris about it."
"Logan was furious with Duncan for leaving without a word." Veronica explained. "If they'd had any contact, he wouldn't still be so angry. He's…not very good at hiding his emotions."
"Really?" Tuski sighed. Veronica and Shep both looked at her. "I…I mean…" she stammered, then rolled her eyes and said "You're a very lucky woman."
"What am I? Mr. Stoneheart?" Shep demanded as Veronica laughed. "I practically had to tap dance on your desk to get you to notice me!"
"Oh, I noticed you." Tuski told him. "We all noticed you; you flirted with everything in the office including the furniture. You just had to learn to focus your attention."
"Can I help it if I'm naturally charming?" Shep demanded.
"That's what they all say," Veronica sighed and pulled out the dessert menu from behind the napkin dispenser. "I need some ice cream."
Veronica was lying on the couch in the living room that evening, remote in hand, surfing channels hoping for something to catch her attention. Logan sat on the floor in front of her, a stack of note cards in his hand. Each card had a plot point from his book outline on it and he was laying them on the floor, trying out different timelines. Until a few minutes before, he had been down in the gym, working out his issues with the heavy bag and he liked to play with his plotlines while he cooled down before taking a shower. He was wearing sweat pants but no shirt and his sweaty hair stood on end.
Bored by an episode of House Hunters, Veronica let her eyes drift over her husband. A smile played on her lips as she watched him work. He looked like a little kid sorting baseball cards as he concentrated on the order in which he'd placed them, then switched one or two around and chewed on his thumbnail, thinking. He leaned forward to move a card and her eye caught sight of a pale pink line that crossed his shoulder blades. In the dim light of dusk she could barely see them but she knew there were two more faded, broken lines crossing the skin of his back and shoulders.
Reaching out, she lightly traced her finger along one, then leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his shoulder.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"If I didn't know where to look, I couldn't see a scar at all." she said.
"Cut it out." He flinched.
"What?" she frowned, surprised at his reaction.
"Is that what you're doing? Looking for flaws? Look close; I got a ton of 'em." He reached out and grabbed his shirt, pulling it on over his head.
"That's not what I was doing." She said. "I just…I can't forget what happened, Logan."
"I could if you'd let it go." He said, petulantly.
"I don't want to forget." She said. "I can't help remembering once in a while how close I came to losing you. Remembering what we've been through helps me focus on why what I do is important. Every day there are people out there who aren't as lucky as we were."
"You think we were lucky?"
"We survived. Scars are there for a reason. We shouldn't forget."
"Scars, warts, flaws. Whatever."
"Scars are not flaws."
"Well maybe they fade for a reason, too." He looked over his shoulder at her, exasperated. "Bad shit happened. A ton of it. I have no intention of wallowing in the memory for the rest of my life."
"Well, neither do I! I don't start each day consulting a list of all the crap we've been through but sometimes I can't help but remember what your back looked like after—"
"It looked worse than it was." He shook the memory off, impatiently. "It just bled a lot. Believe me it's been—" he stopped.
"I know. I'm sorry."
"Why are you trying to pick a fight with me?" he demanded.
"What? I'm not!" she laughed. "Why are you trying to pick a fight with me?"
"I never have to work that hard." He muttered, going back to his cards.
"Are you just trying to piss me off?" she asked suspiciously. At that, he laughed and turned and put one elbow up on the couch beside her.
"I'm sorry." He said. "It's been a really stupid day. I don't like remembering what happened. And I don't want you feeling bad about it. I don't even like you trying to find Gory. Forget about him."
"I think that's a mistake. When I think about what he did to you—"
"What he did to me? Veronica, you knee capped him. If you haven't been able to find a trace of him in all these years, did it ever occur to you that it may be because he's crippled? On balance, I think we got our pound of flesh."
"That's all the more reason to think he may want revenge." She pointed out.
"I don't think so." He sighed and began to collect his cards in order. "Not unless he's even stupider than I think he is."
"He couldn't be." She agreed. "But he may be a lot more determined than you think."
"I think…" he stopped, staring blankly into space.
"What?" she prompted. He looked at her over his shoulder.
"I think I need to go see Trina."
To be Continued...