Chapter 39 Aces and Eights

Logan and Dick had spent the morning out on the early autumn waves. It had been exhilarating and exhausting; two of Logan's favorite things. Now they sat beside their boards on the warm sand and drank the beers Dick had brought along.

"Mel's cool and all?" Dick said, tossing his empty bottle beside the cooler. "But she doesn't let me drink in the a.m. Says it cuts into my 'productivity'." He cut scare quotes into the air, as if to emphasize how ridiculous his wife was.

"Really." Logan frowned. "She doesn't want you to concentrate on what you're good at?"

"Tell you the truth, dude, I'm not as young as I used to be. It's getting harder all the time to pound a few brews at breakfast and still be awake for lunch." Dick admitted. "But somehow, that doesn't bother me too much. It's like; when I wake up? My first thought isn't getting my buzz on."

"They say marriage civilizes a man." Logan offered.

"I'll say." Dick chortled. "If by 'civilizing' you mean that waking up to a hot, naked chick with her hand on your crank is better than a tequila shot."

"What else would I have meant?"

"It's not just that, either. Mel's really smart even with her clothes on." Dick said with more than a hint of pride. "So I just do whatever she says. So far, so good. Added bonus; if things ever do go wrong, I can blame it all on her."

"You mean with the business?" Logan asked. Both Dick and Mel had gotten their degrees in business management and were working on getting their commercial real estate licenses. With the help of Big Dick, who had paid his debt to society but was barred from renewing his own license, acting as a consultant, they planned to begin their own Casablancas' Enterprise.

"Mel says if all I do is look good for the investors," Dick explained, "that's a valuable modality in itself."

"You mean 'commodity'?"

"Whatever." Dick shrugged one perfectly sculpted, tanned shoulder. "Lookin' good has never been a problem for this boy. Hell, if looks count for anything and we both know they do, Mel and I should rule Neptune in five years."

"That's a …scary thought."

"Isn't it?" Dick nodded. "And the best part is that unless they illegalize being hot, we'll be on the up and up."

"Isn't your Dad helping out?"

"Yep." Dick nodded. "Dad's been great. He gets that it's up to me now to clear the good name of Casablancas. What with him and Beav' both being criminals and all. He's teaching us stuff we'd never learn from the classes. Half of it I don't even get but it's okay; Mel told me to just follow her lead and if I have any questions, ask her later and she'd explain it. It's working too; Dad is starting to think all the brains in the family didn't wind up splattered across the driveway of the Neptune Grand."

"Fuck." Logan blurted. "I mean; good. That's good."

"Dad's strategy is to start inland and eventually work our way to the beach. That's what he did."

"You really think it's a good idea to follow his business model?"

"We've been all over that in counseling and shit. He still says the original model was sound but he got greedy and was too cocky to think he'd get caught. Plus, no offense or nothin' but Ronnie's not around to mess things up anymore."

"I hate to break it to you but Ronnie's not Big Dick's problem anymore; he's on the FTC's do not fly list. Forever."

"Yeah. He's kind of…um…hypersensitive to anything that even smells shady. I guess doing time, even in a country club prison isn't as much fun as it sounds."

"So, it was scented soap he was reaching for when he got raped?" Logan quipped. Neither of them had much filial sympathy toward their fathers.

"Too bad they couldn't give him Woody Goodman as a cell mate!" Dick laughed. "All things considered, that would have been poetic justice!"

Logan took another pull on his beer. "Cell mates named Woody and Big Dick? I don't know about poetic but the gay porn writes itself."

Dick guffawed. "All I know is a guy who looks like me should never get himself thrown in the pokey. Hey, you think that's why they call it the 'pokey'?"

"Yes." Logan pointed out the bright side of incarceration. "You'd be very popular there."

"Not happening. Plus, Mel says if I'm ever tempted to take Dad's old short cuts, she's dumping me. Says not even conjugular visits, which sound hot as hell, by the way, would be enough to keep her hitched to my wagon. Call me whipped but I already got the girl; what do I need to get rich for?"

"You used to call me whipped." Logan reminded Dick with a shove.

"You were whipped!" Dick grinned. "That was before I knew how much a guy could accomplish when he's not wasting all his time trying to get laid."

"Like what?"

"Getting laid!"

"Still a romantic after all these years." Logan shook his head in admiration.

"Try to be." Dick said, modestly. "Turns out 'whipped' is just a construct for guys who still need luck to get lucky."

"You turning philosopher on me?" Logan cocked one eyebrow. "Or is this the beer talking?"

"Seriously; when you can check that box every morning before you even get out of bed, the day is your bitch!" Dick explained. "School was easier; working is easier, surfing's easier, my powers of concentration are better than ever…all because I'm getting my pipes cleaned as often as I want."

"And the old Dick is back." Logan murmured. "How is it having Heather living with you guys? No privacy issues?"

"Nah. I mean, she learned pretty quick to knock first but no problem; we're still partying like Ozzie."

"So you never go out at all?" Logan wondered.

"Only ever went out to score chicks." Dick shrugged. "What's the point of going out when she's already in?"

"Mel's okay with it? Partying like Ozzie every night?"

"Dude, not every night." Dick conceded. "After four years, I can hardly do every morning."

"Never thought I'd see the day when you were the poster boy for married life." Logan shook his head in wonder.

"I know. It's awesome!" Dick raised his bottle to the institution. "Scored a smokin' hot wife who's determined to keep me in the manner to which I am accustomed and it turns out she's smart enough to do it."

"Yeah." Logan took another pull on his beer. "We both got lucky."

The two young men watched the waves in companionable silence for a few moments.

"We're totally fucked if they ever figure out how useless we are." Dick said.

"Totally fucked." Logan agreed.

"I'm so excited!" Mel squealed. She was between Dick and Candy in the back of the Bentley JR had procured for the evening. "We never go anywhere, anymore. I think Dick's ashamed to be seen with me in public."

"Baby, why you gotta say stuff like that?" Dick asked, plaintively. "We went out just last weekend."

"We went to Home Depot to get a lock for Heather's door." Mel sniffed.

"Home Depot is awesome." Candy snickered.

"Well, it still doesn't count as going out." Mel insisted. "If you don't have to get dressed up, it's not 'going out'."

"I had to get dressed up!" Dick said.

"Putting on a shirt and shoes is not 'dressed up'." His wife told him.

"It is for me." He grumbled as Logan dove into the back of the car and JR put it in drive.

"Thanks so much for inviting us!" Mel said to him. "I was just telling Candy how boring our social life is. I've been dying for a reason to wear this dress."

She was in a slinky, sequined burnt orange mini dress cut low in front and very low in back with a series of lattice like straps down her spine the only thing keeping it from bouncing off her shoulders to the floor. Four inch, gold, platform pumps made her already long, slim legs look amazing. Her thick, dark hair was loose and natural and her only nod to makeup was a pair of false eyelashes.

She was definitely ready for her close up.

"Awesome dress." Candy said, eyeing her critically. "Stick-on demi cups?"

"Yeah." Mel said, glancing down at her exposed cleavage. "If the stickum fails, anything could happen."

"Don't worry." Candy assured her. "Unless you went super cheap, those things are pretty reliable."

"DUDE." Dick glared at Candy. "Quit talking about my wife's lingerie. Quit thinking about my wife's lingerie."

"How?" Candy asked, indicating the expanse of flesh highlighted by her deep décolletage.

"Hey!" Logan growled at Dick, "Some thanks I get from you: I invite you to a party on a kick ass yacht and you bring Heather along?"

"That's not our fault!" Mel cried. "She found out you were on the coast and nothing could make her stay home! If we hadn't let her in the car, she would've jumped on the roof. You'd have been really pissed if we drove up the PCH with Heather as a hood ornament."

Logan had just spent the last ten minutes assuaging Heather's hurt feelings at being left behind. She simply couldn't understand that the party they were going for was no place for a fifteen year old girl; especially one who looked exactly like her gorgeous, adult sister.

"I can't come?" Heather had cried, "But you're bringing him?" She had pointed an incredulous finger at Candy. "He dresses like a cartoon character!"

"Hey!" Candy took exception to her description. He was wearing an outfit he had bought that afternoon at the pro shop at Pelican Hill; a white button down shirt topped with a yellow and pink argyle sweater vest, a pair of pale yellow plus fours and argyle socks that matched the vest. Just in case that hadn't been enough, he'd topped the ensemble off with a pink bow tie. Logan was just grateful he wasn't wearing yellow shorts and a sombrero.

"He's a grown man…sort of." Logan told her. "You on the other hand, are a fifteen year old kid and there's no way you're coming."

"I can handle myself!" Heather insisted.

"Sure you can." Logan was adamant. "But if you think you can handle a boatload of drunk, horny grown men, you're delusional."

"EW!" Heather screwed up her face.

"This isn't a Disney cruise." Logan went on. "This is a party for seriously demented reprobates and you're not coming."

"Why are you going?" Heather didn't want to give up.

"We are seriously demented reprobates." Dick pointed out. "You're just a kid."

"I'm not a kid!" Heather cried, stamping her foot. "And I don't need a babysitter!"

"Good!" Logan grinned and ruffled her hair. "Then you won't mind hanging here by yourself till we get back! As always; you're welcome to use the facilities but try to stay out of the porn."

"Ew." Heather pouted but accepted defeat.

"Oh please!" Mel rolled her eyes at Logan in the limo. "You could torch a school and Heather wouldn't think you were the bad guy. She thinks the sun rises out of your butt crack."

"No she doesn't." he said, impatiently.

"She really does bro." Dick said. "She is seriously illusioned about you."

"I'm just the guy who introduced her to Amy's Ice Cream." Logan dismissed Heather's hero worship. "Is it too much to ask that her disillusionment not come at my hands? If you two can't say 'no' to her, send her back to her mom."

"Dude, that is cold." Mel said, sadly. "It would break her heart if she knew you said that."

"I don't dress like a cartoon." Candy blurted. "This rig is sweet."

"Yeah…" Mel eyed Candy's colorful ensemble. "I'm pretty sure I had an LPGA Barbie who wore that."

"You look like Payne Stewart in Hell." Logan told Candy.

"Jealous." Candy sat back, confident of his sartorial splendor.

"Hey, you told me we were going to a party," Dick poked Logan. "You didn't tell me it was on a boat. Dude, don't you know boat parties are the worst?"

"Trust me; this one won't be." Logan smirked.

Dick's complaints stopped the moment they pulled up to the marina. The 'boat' they were looking for, The Lady Rossiya, was moored in the first slip, 130 feet of lanterns, music, food, drinks, festively dressed revelers and discreet wait staff.

"Dude!" Dick turned from the window and grinned at Logan. "That's not a boat; that's a party barge! Why didn't you say so?" As he spoke, he pulled on the door handle and sprang out onto the marina deck.

Mel scooted out after her husband with Candy and Logan on her heels before JR could even come around and opened the door for them. JR handed the keys to the parking valet and followed them up the gangplank.

"Echolls," Logan said to the huge, well dressed bouncer at the rail. "They're with me."

The bouncer didn't bat an eye at Mel (she could get into any party anywhere; especially in that dress) but he patted down Dick, Candy and Logan. Finding the piece in the shoulder holster tucked under Logan's arm, he removed it, raising his eyebrows at Mr. Echolls.

"Dude," Logan said matter of factly, "I have enemies. I thought everyone knew that."

"You're safe on board, Mr. Echolls. You can have it back when you leave." The bouncer said as he moved to block JR's entrance to the deck.

"He's with me." Logan said, in a tone of utter boredom.

"Him?" The bouncer asked, casting a doubtful eye at the unprepossessing young man.

"He's here to mix my drinks."

"We have bartenders." The bouncer said.

"Everyone has bartenders." Logan snapped. "He's mine."

"Yes sir." The bouncer stepped aside as one who was used to the eccentricities of the rich and famous.

They were quickly welcomed aboard by the host of the party, Logan's new friend, Nick Peterson.

"Logan!" He cried, throwing his arms out in welcome. "You came! I didn't think you would; they tell me you've become a famous recluse!" Nick was a handsome dark haired, dark eyed young man of thirty something who looked like he would run to fat in the next decade or so. His casual attire had that effortless look that only great style or tons of money could accomplish. "This we must change, my friend. You're too young; the world offers too much amusement for you to retire from it." He draped an arm over Logan's shoulders, drawing him on deck, while completely ignoring the rest of Logan's entourage.

Dick and Melinda immediately joined the mix of people dancing to the music of a jazz trio playing on the largest, lowest of the stern decks, where guests boarded. In addition to the dancers, there were knots of folks scattered across the large deck, talking, drinking and laughing and here and there, a few couples engaged in intimate conversation under cover of the music. Promenades along each side of the yacht lead to the forward deck and stairways to the upper aft decks. Nick took Logan down the port promenade toward the craft's bow. JR and Candy followed, the one keeping a sharp eye on his employer, the other gaping at everything in sight.

"Nice boat you've got here." Logan said, appreciatively.

"You like it?" Nick grinned. "My uncle had it made by some hot designer out of Britain. Heywood, I believe his name is. I hear he's working on one twice as big for some rag head sheik; two helipads! This bucket doesn't even have one. I told Uncle someday he'd regret that bit of economy but he wouldn't listen…"

"Penny wise, pound foolish." Logan shook his head in sympathy.

There were several doors off the promenades accessing the interior where staterooms could be found for those who needed a bit of privacy. The interior spaces of the upper levels contained luxurious salons and at least two dining rooms. Most of those rooms were open to the guests but a few were closed. Party guests hailed Nick all along the length of the yacht, casting curious glances at his companion. They passed the stairs to the lower level whence a stream of wait staff kept trays of food and drink circulating all decks.

"Come along," Nick said as they approached the large fore deck. "People are dying to meet you."

"Wow." Candy breathed as he stopped in his tracks, looking around at the crowd.

"Don't let them smell fear," Logan murmured. "They'll eat you alive."

"I'm not scared." Candy snorted.

"I'm terrified." Logan admitted.

"This is a bad idea." Shelley warned as she followed Madison down the stairs. "You should just leave him alone."

"This is fate." Madison insisted. "I'm just going to say 'hi' to an old friend."

"Oh, so it's Dick you're after?" Shelley said sarcastically. "I heard he was married."

"Dick is old news." Madison sneered. "Logan and I have unfinished business."

"Such a bad idea." Shelley moaned.

Nick commandeered a large, curved banquette near the dance floor and was introducing Logan to several other guests. The crowd had already been awash in money but Logan's entrance had added a new and far more interesting flavor of celebrity. Heads were turning and several of the more determined young ladies had already managed to insert themselves into Nick's company, hoping to catch Logan's attention. Candy found a seat at the edge of the banquette and JR hovered nearby.

"How was your morning?" Nick asked Logan as he waved over a waiter with a tray of drinks. "When we parted you looked like you were in for a rough awakening."

"Oh, you know;" Logan shrugged. "I don't even call them hangovers anymore. It's just 'morning'."

"Small price to pay." Nick chuckled, handing Logan a drink. "Did you take home the lovely young thing I saw hanging on your every word?"

"No." Logan scoffed, ignoring Candy's indignant chuff. "I don't care how hot she is; stupid isn't sexy."

"Yes it is!" Nick guffawed. "She's one of our leading socialites."

"Socialites are just bottom feeders with money." Logan dismissed the memory of the girl.

"They give great head, though." Nick semi agreed. "That counts for a lot in my book."

"That would be the book that comes in a plain brown wrapper?"

"As long as I come, I don't give a shit what the wrapper is!" Nick cried. "This morning, I went for a message and they gave me a guy. I almost didn't ask for a happy ending."


"Hey, I'm not homophobic!" Nick said. "I'm all for equal opportunity!"

"I'm sure the sex industry appreciates that." Logan smirked. "You know, when you invited me to play cards on your boat, this is not what I envisioned."

"Great venue, isn't it?" Nick grinned. "I swear, it's a floating brothel and all kinds of screwing goes on here. It belongs to my uncle but he's generous with me. He believes in business by seduction."

"Of course he does. Isn't that what we were talking about? When does the game begin?"

"Don't worry; we wouldn't start without you!" Nick assured him. "In the meantime, relax; enjoy yourself." He gestured to a few more slinky young women, saying "Come, meet my friend; show him a good time!" He gave up his seat on the banquette to the girls. "As tonight's host, I have duties to attend to but I'll send for you when we're ready to begin. In the meantime, enjoy the party favors; there are private rooms available if you really want to unwind."

Shelley hung back and gave Madison room to maneuver without seeming to push.

"Movie star or Rock star?" An older gent asked Shelley, clearly amused by the contest occurring at the banquette as a half dozen or so young women vied for positon.

"Logan Echolls." Shelley told him.

" Oh. So neither, really?" the man clarified.

"Nope." Shelley shrugged. "Just famous for being famous."

"Well, that takes a certain amount of panache, doesn't it?" the man asked. "To be famous without actually having done anything?"

"Oh, Logan's done plenty," Shelley muttered. "But the charges never stuck."

Madison stopped short of the banquette to size up the competition. Oh, the women weren't swarming it, as such; they were all too sophisticated and clever for that. Like herself, they were simply putting themselves in the vicinity to be noticed and singled out. She curled her lip at the desperation of the women around her. They were all so transparent. She stepped back into the shadow below the upper deck, just behind a string of paper lanterns where she could study the situation without being seen.

Logan looked good.

That was no surprise; he had always looked good. He had a girl to his right, two to his left and he was laughing and flirting with the entire crowd. One of the girls was playfully feeding him hors d'oeuvres from her plate. God, how pathetic. Of course, Logan was lapping it up. Literally, he was sucking her fingers. Madison felt a hot flash of something deep in her gut. Lust? Jealousy? Possession? He should be licking my fingers.

Suddenly, a skinny young man appeared out of nowhere, swooped forward, grabbed something from the pushy whore's fingers and threw it overboard, eliciting gasps and laughter from the rest of the crowd around the banquette.

"What the hell?" the pushy whore cried.

"No shellfish." Madison heard Logan say as he turned away from the girl who had tried to feed him shrimp, to accept a glass of something from another. "I think she's trying to kill me." He confided to his new favorite. He took a sip and made a face.

"It must suck not to be able to eat shellfish in southern California." the new favorite said sympathetically. Madison rolled her eyes.

"I can't eat it anywhere, idiot." Logan said, dismissing her as casually as he tossed the drink she'd given him overboard before looking for someone new. Madison bit off a laugh. Clearly, he wasn't remotely interested in any of these bimbos. Smiling, she strolled toward the banquette with a sensual confidence that caught the attention of most of the party guests sitting there. Like the slow motion, pivotal point in a romantic movie, he turned his amber eyes up to meet hers.

"Hey, Logan." She purred, her voice warm, low and intimate. "Long time, no see."

It was serendipitous. Their eyes locked; everyone else just melted away and best of all, those other bitches knew they had just been melted away and there was nothing they could do about it. It was obvious to everyone on deck that she and Logan had something special; a history, a relationship, a connection…

"Oh God." He blurted.

Wait. That didn't sound quite right. Then…

"Logan! Dude!" An unwelcome voice broke their private reverie. "You gotta see the rest of this tub! There's like; a movie theater and a disco! Now this is how to throw a party on a boat!"

Logan's eyes slid past her and she turned, against her will, to face the interloper.

Dick Casablancas.

"Oh God." Madison winced.

Candy was not enjoying himself. For a few brief moments he'd thought they had stumbled into Beach Boys Paradise; three girls for every guy. That view quickly deteriorated when every last girl on board ignored him in their mad scramble to get close to Logan. Being ignored or rudely elbowed aside was bad enough but his Midwestern soul was deeply offended by the aggressive way these coastal cuties threw themselves at a married man. The Admiral was doing a pretty good job of fending them off but as rude as he was to them, they just kept on coming.

Soon, Candy realized that Logan hadn't been joking when he'd admitted to being terrified. JR's quick intercept of the shrimp some girl tried to shove down Logan's throat spurred him to action. He elbowed the assassin off the banquette and took the spot at Logan's side.

At first he was nice; he smiled, flirted and turned his charm up as far as it would go to deflect the women trying to get at the Admiral but their single minded determination wore him down. By the time Logan threw the drink overboard, Candy was snarling and slapping at them like they were a swarm of bees. He could only hope that JR was doing as thorough a job protecting Veronica's husband's left flank as he was attempting to do on the right.

"Uh…wha—Maddie!" the big blond cried, his face a mask of insincere delight. No one could be that happy, coming face to face with the One That Got Away.

Madison smiled a tight little smile at her high school beau. Dick was still extremely easy on the eyes but his timing had always been horrific. Some things never change. The thing is; some things should have changed by now. Look at that hair. Look at that vacant expression. What a goob. She couldn't believe she'd lost her virginity to this dope. Or maybe she hadn't…she still wasn't perfectly sure what had happened in the back of John Enbom's mother's car just before freshman year started…

"Damn, Madison!" Dick was saying. The sound of his stupid surfer-boy voice made her want to slap his face. "Marriage looks good on you!"

"What?" She shook her head. "I'm not married."

"Yeah, I didn't mean your marriage; I meant mine." Dick yammered on like the idiot she knew he was. She threw a look over her shoulder and saw that one of the other party vampires had nestled up next to Logan, to the consternation of his darling little friend. She tamped down a bubble of frustration, seeing Logan's attention turned on someone else.

"You gotta meet my wife," Dick had her by the arm and was looking around the deck.

"I don't want to meet your wife, Dick." Madison said firmly.

"No, it's okay," Dick assured her. "Mel doesn't bite…well, okay; she does but only in a really good way."

"Great to see you, Dick." Madison turned back toward Logan, trying to pull her arm out of Dick's grip.

"Hang on!" Dick yanked her back and Madison found herself face to face with the hottest woman she'd ever seen. Madison wasn't exactly sure why but she suddenly felt overly made up and coiffed yet flabby and dowdy.

"Uh…" she said.

"Hi!" Dick's wife smiled. "So you're the high school girl friend? Nice. Babe; I found a hot tub!"

"Sweet!" Dick's attention was all on his wife. "Skinny dipping?"

"Not yet." Mel shimmied suggestively.

"I love being first!" Dick said and he and his smoking hot wife took off, giggling.

Madison stood rooted to the deck, shocked. She realized she had been taken into account, seen as no threat and dismissed; all in a matter of seconds. It was a totally new experience for her.

"What. The. Fuck?" She spat.

"I never eat shellfish." A platinum blond with a cleavage that could only have come from a body shop sighed into Logan's face. "My mouth is a hypoallergenic environment."

"EWWW!" Candy squealed, reaching across Logan to slap at her.

"A germ free orifice? I never would have guessed." Logan turned to JR. "Get me a filthy martini."

"I thought they were called 'dirty martinis'?" the brunette leaning across Candy's lap to get at Logan's other side asked.

"Not the way I like 'em." Logan told her.

"Get off me!" Candy ordered. "I'm not a piece of furniture!"

"Could you get your little friend under control?" The blond asked Logan, throwing a dubious look at Candy.

"I don't think so." Logan admitted. "I wouldn't know where to start."

"Me?" Candy sputtered at the blond while trying to push the brunette off himself. "I'm out of control? You're the one in a D-cup water bra!"

"You really shouldn't torture him like this." Blondie told Logan sadly.

"I'm not torturing him," Candy hissed at her, "You are!"

"What?" She looked totally confused.

"Please; if there's going to be torture; take it inside." Logan sighed. "I hear there are staterooms available."

Madison regained her composure and turned back to the banquette just in time to see Logan roll his eyes at the buxom blond. She smirked. Logan had never been into the manufactured looking girls. He liked his women real. She shook off the dismay of running into Dick and continued her quest, moving toward the banquette like a leopard stalking its prey.

She hadn't made up her mind as to the best approach when she saw Logan's man return with a drink in his hand and she had a flash of brilliance.

She would present both the drink and herself to Logan and when he reached for the glass, she'd take a swig; then share that first sip with him in a soul kiss. With her body pressed up against his, he'd realize her secret (she was commando) and be unable to resist her charms.

It would be unforgettable.

JR had found the galley downstairs. No one noticed him wandering amongst the wait staff, bartenders and food preparers. No one had said a word until he'd helped himself to the gin and vermouth.

"Hey, who are you?" one of the bartenders demanded, seeing a stranger in the galley. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm Logan Echolls man." JR said, as if barging into someone else's kitchen were the most normal thing in the world. "He needs a martini."

"Well get out of the way; I'll mix it." The bartender said, reaching for the Ketel One.

"I have to do it." JR said, shaking his head and refusing to relinquish the bottle.

"Give it!"

"No, seriously, he'll know." JR explained, hoping to avoid a tug of war. "I'm the only one who can do it the way he likes it and he'll get very upset if I try to give him one anybody else mixed!"

"Really?" The bartender looked unconvinced and unimpressed.

"What's going on?" a waitress bounced into the galley to find the two young men arguing over a bottle of gin.

"He won't let me mix a martini for Logan Echolls." The bartender said, letting go of the bottle in exasperation.

"Ooh, do you work for him?" the waitress asked JR. "He is seriously hot."

"Well, that might be true," JR replied, clutching the Ketel One to his chest like a prize. "But he's also bonkers."

"Really?" she asked, excited. "I guess a lot of those Hollywood types are kinda crazy, aren't they?"

"How's he gonna know if you mixed his drink or not?" the bartender demanded.

"Look; all you need to know is that if I don't mix his drink and get it back to him pronto," JR said, agitated, "you're going to be in big trouble when he trashes the fore deck. I wouldn't want to be the guy who has to explain to the owner of this vessel why Mr. Echolls felt the need to cause a violent scene."

"He gets violent?" the waitresses' eyes got huge.

"Google him." JR said ominously.

"Fine." The bartender gave up and turned to his work. "Mix your stupid drink."

"So, what's it like working for him?" the waitress asked, breathlessly. "I mean, what's he really like?"

"He takes self absorption to a new level." JR said, carefully adding vodka and vermouth to the shaker. After pouring out and adding two skewered olives, he removed a small vial full of golden liquid from his breast pocket. "Behold; the secret ingredient of a Logan Echolls filthy martini." He opened the cork and carefully tapped a few drops into the glass.

"What is it?"

"His own urine." JR said, his voice flattened by long years of service in which he had become inured to the idiosyncrasies of his employer, no matter how gross or depraved.

"No shit?" her eyes grew wide.

"No, just urine." JR replied. "But if he ever offers you a homemade cookie, don't eat it."

"That is so gross." She breathed, awestruck.

"I told you; His narcissism knows no bounds." JR prepared to return above deck with the filthy martini when she grabbed his arm.

"Can I have a taste?" she asked.

Up on deck, JR wove his way carefully through the party, bringing his filthy martini to Logan. A few steps from the banquette, a woman appeared out of nowhere and tried to snag the drink out of his hand.

It had taken JR some serious slight of hand work to dump the alcohol down the galley sink under the scrutiny of the star struck waitress. Two olives and a drop of the 'secret ingredient' weren't enough to disguise the taste of ordinary tap water and JR wasn't about to let some braless bimbo discover Logan's secret.

"HEY!" he cried, as Madison grabbed for the martini glass.

The group on the banquette looked up in time to see Madison, her face set in grim determination, wrest the glass out of JR's grip. JR's frantic gaze met Logan's frown as Madison hurriedly raised the glass to her own lips.

"That's not yours!" JR cried, swinging wildly. He knocked the drink out of Madison's hand, spraying the front of her dress and the back of the woman standing behind her. The girls on the banquette laughed as the woman caught in the spray turned in disgust and said "Shit, woman; know when you've had enough!"

"Uugh! You idiot!" Madison screeched at JR.

"I'm sorry; look, I'm really sorry!" He sputtered. "I'll get you another drink; wait here."

"I hope that card game starts soon," Logan sighed heavily. "Since it's impossible to even get a decent drink up here."

"You wouldn't really rather play cards than play…with me?" one of the bimbos sighed into Logan's ear.

"Hello? Its poker." He explained.

"I'd let you play poke her." She slid a hand up Logan's leg.

"Hands off!" Candy snapped at her.

"You should probably go; you're agitating my friend here." Logan said as he pointedly removed the woman's hand from his thigh.

"Am I agitating you?" she smirked.

"Uck." Candy spat.

"Not at all." Logan said. "I remain unmoved. Go away."

Finally insulted, she huffed and slid off the banquette, in search of more pliable, less rude company.

Madison took advantage of the opening and dove onto the banquette. Not a woman to give up easily, she had decided to make the best of the situation; she called attention to her damp décolletage by dabbing at it with a napkin.

"God, Logan; where did you find him?" she smiled ruefully. "I know good help is hard to come by but come on."

"He's good at dealing with pirates." Logan said without looking at her.

"Hey; Pirate Pride! Am I right?" she joshed.

"I meant theft upon the high seas." He glared at her. "That was my drink."

"I just wanted a sip," she pouted. "It's not like we've never shared more than a drink before."

"Bygones." He said curtly. "Not really into reliving ancient history."

"What you and I had wasn't exactly—"

"Listen." He cut her off, his voice hard. "I'm a modelizer, not a muttalizer; go lift your tail elsewhere."

Madison froze in mortification as everyone within earshot gasped at Logan's insult.

"Fine." She stood with as much dignity as she could muster and prepared to march off the deck without a backward glance. She hadn't taken three steps when she was confronted by JR, offering her a fresh martini. Without a word, she accepted the glass from him, then threw its contents back in his face.

"Okay." JR said, blinking gin and vermouth out of his eyes.

On the banquette, the remaining women gaped at Logan, who ignored Madison's departure and was loudly complaining about the choice of hors d'oeuvres.

"Good riddance!" Candy muttered. Vanquishing the women attempting to seduce Veronica's husband was exhausting work.

Before Logan was called upon to defend his virtue any further, Nick arrived and extricated him from the banquette, taking him down to the game room where a select group of gentlemen were eagerly awaiting the chance to relieve him of as much of his fortune as possible.

The moment Nick Peterson and Logan Echolls left the deck, the tension in the air evaporated. Shelley Pomeroy had seen it all a hundred times; once the big game was out of range, they all relaxed and enjoyed the party. She grabbed another drink and drifted over to the banquette, dropping down beside the person most upset by the proceedings.

"Oh," She said sympathetically to colorfully dressed young man, "Sweetie, you have to relax; it's always like this."

"They're like Vampires." Candy said, distraught. "How can he stand it?"

"I think he likes it." Shelley suggested.

"No way." Candy snorted. "He'd never be interested in any of those creatures." Compared to Veronica, these girls were cheap, tawdry and unappealing.

"He's a guy, isn't he?" Shelley said, dryly.

"Not that kind of guy." Candy scoffed, firm in his faith in Logan. "You don't know him."

"Actually, I do." She said, gently. "I've known him since high school."

"Well, then; he's changed." Candy scowled.

"Not that much." Shelley raised an eyebrow. Her mind raced along every memory she had of Logan. She shook her head. "No way."

"Uh hunh!" Candy insisted. "People can change!"

"Oh, sweetie." Shelley took pity on the poor kid. "Don't waste your time. For your own good, move on. I've never known anyone as straight as Logan Echolls."

It took a beat for the meaning of her words to hit Candy. Then he turned to her with a frown and said "WHAT?"

Several hours later, Logan sat scowling at his cards. As happy as he was to be away from the club scene up on deck, it didn't mitigate the fact that his pile of poker chips was greatly diminished and even the taste of the La Sirena King Poseidon he gnawed on couldn't make his current hand look any better.

He took the cigar out of his mouth, blew a cloud and threw in his hand, saying in a disgusted voice,"Fold."

The two men still vying for the pot ignored him but the three already out chuckled. Logan turned toward the door and barked "JR!"

Silently, the door to the game room slid open and his man appeared.

"Another." He snapped. Without a word, JR disappeared.

"What's so great about the way he shakes a martini?" Nick asked. "You won't drink anything else?"

"Let's just say he's my taste tester." Logan chomped on his cigar. "I have no interest in being rufied and raped by you guys."

"Ha." One of the others chuckled. "Your tits aren't big enough to interest me."

"Is that a real consideration or is your paranoia showing through?" Nick wondered.

"I'm only paranoid because they're out to get me." Logan said, defensively. "Shit; one murder accusation and those Mexicans never get over it. The Irish aren't any better and all I did was threaten to shoot a few of them. Why else do you think your bouncer had to relieve me of my piece when I came aboard?"

"You came heavy?" a deeply tanned, silver haired gent with the bushiest eyebrows Logan had ever seen asked.

"Always." Logan answered.

"That's probably smart," The white haired, older man still holding his cards said. "Look out for those Micks, they have long memories."

"You're Irish, aren't you, Whitey?"

"You think I ever forgot anything?" Whitey looked at him with cold blue eyes.

"Paranoia has served me well." Logan said. "I have no interest in making it easy on my enemies. If they're going to take me down, they'll have to employ a sniper to do it."

"I hear that." Whitey nodded. "A sniper or a bomb. However it happens, it won't be due to a lack of diligence."

"Wisdom speaks." Logan murmured, raising his cigar to Whitey.

"Maybe a taste tester isn't a bad idea?" Nick wondered.

"Poison is for bitches." Eyebrows grunted. "Any of them out to get you?"

"Thousands." Logan said absently, watching as Whitey won the hand and scooped up the pot.

JR returned as the next hand was dealt. Logan downed the drink in one gulp, olive and all.

"You drink like you think it will change your luck!" Nick laughed.

"You can't change what you don't have." Logan answered, frowning at his cards.

"What?" One of the other players asked. "You're only down a few grand. Chump change."

"It's not the money," Logan patiently answered, "It's the joy I would take from skinning you."

"A fine Cuban cigar; $11.00." Nick said. "A bottle of twelve year old scotch; $60.00. The joy of skinning your friends alive; priceless."

The men at the table laughed except for the one who just lost the pot to Whitey. "Could we knock it off with the Visa ads and play some cards?"

"It's an American Express ad."

"It's Visa."

"Pretty sure it's American Express."

"Pretty sure fuck you; Gimme two."

The guys laughed at what passed for wit at the table and the game continued.

An hour later, Logan left the game room. JR was waiting in the hall outside and they walked the quiet corridor back to the stairs leading to the upper deck.

"How'd it go?" JR asked politely.

"Admittance to an exclusive game; $1000.00. " Logan answered. "Making a roomful of new friends; $10,000. Losing it all by going all in on a pair of nines; priceless."

They reached the upper deck unnoticed by the revelers still partying all around them. JR went off the collect the rest of their group while Logan retreated to the shadows beneath the upper deck. His solitude was interrupted by a coldly furious Madison.

"Logan." She said, a brittle smile on her face.

"I thought I told you to leave me alone." He murmured.

"Don't worry. I'm sure you will always be alone. You can die alone for all I care. But just for your information; you can remove my notch from your bedpost. You can insult me all you want but this is one hot piece of ass you'll never have. You look at me and think 'been there, done that' but the laugh's on you, you jackass."

"What are you talking about?"

"Christmas break. '06. Aspen." She spat. "Even the great Logan Echolls can't fuck when he's passed out drunk on the floor."

"Are you telling me..?"

"Yeah." She got in his face. "You never had me. You never touched me."

The look of astonishment on his face was all she could have hoped for but the exquisite satisfaction that filled her breast was quickly replaced by confusion when he burst out laughing.

"THAT is the best news I've heard in decades!" he said happily. "Maybe now Veronica will stop making me sterilize my nether parts before letting me make love to her!"

"Veronica?" she sneered. "You're still hung up on her? Dream on, shit for brains; you never had a shot with Veronica Mars."

"Oh, okay." He rolled his eyes. "Like you'd know."

"I know that little gold digger would never settle for the bass player when she's always had her sights set on the lead singer. I know you're not the hottest catch in Neptune anymore." She laughed at the confusion on his face.

"What-?" he began.

"BASTARD!" a female voice behind him interrupted. He spun around to see what new horror was being visited upon him only to be slapped so hard his head snapped around.

"YOU PROMISED YOU'D MARRY ME!" Heather, dressed to the nines in her sister's clothes, burst into tears and threw herself into his arms.

"what?" Logan repeated, trying to pry a weeping girl off his chest.

"I'm rescuing you!" Heather hissed under her breath.

"From what?!"Logan demanded.

Heather lifted a tear stained face to his and said "Evil."

Shaking his head, he grabbed her arm and pulled her across the deck. Behind him, Madison laughed.

"Yeah, go on!" she taunted.

He threw one last look at Madison as he ushered Heather toward the gang plank.

"No one cares about you anymore, Logan Echolls!" Madison spat. "Duncan's back."

To be continued...