My dad had lost the sheriff election. Vinny Van Lowe holds the title now.

Don Lamb definitely had his flaws. Glaring, prominent, easily identifiable flaws that perhaps could've been overcome if he hadn't fallen victim to a baseball bat. At times, it was questionable whether or not Lamb had a heart, and if he did, was it made of something stony, stiff, and only found deep underground? But for all his flaws, he wasn't incompetent.

Vinny Van Lowe isn't totally incompetent.

But . . . pretty much.

"When was the last time you saw Miss Law?"

"Miss Lee," I correct him for the fourth time. His third attempt had been "Miss Leaf." Gah.

"Right, of course," Vinny notes, scribbling something out on his notepad. We're in Mac's room, notably Parker-less, and policemen are riddle about the place, searching for clues or whatever.

"I last saw her yesterday," Mac informs him. "She left to get us coffee."

"What kind of coffee?"

Mac and I exchange bewildered looks. "Excuse me?" she asks.

"What kind of coffee was she fetching for the both of you?"

"How is that relevant?" Mac frowns.

"Oh, are you getting nervous?" Vinny raises a condescending eyebrow. "Feeling a little antsy?"

"Are you accusing me of something?"

"Do you feel like I'm accusing you of something?"

"Seriously, Vinny?" I exclaim. "Do you want to find the girl or not?"

"That's exactly what I'm trying to do, Veronica," Vinny tells me in a tone I fail to take seriously.

"Then go find her!"

"Do you think it's that easy, V?" he asks, even though he is not Weevil and does not have permission to use that name. "Do you know how difficult it is to solve crimes?"

I hold back a hysterical fit of laughter.

"Out of curiosity, I would also like you to address that question," I retort.

He replies with a look of unadulterated sass that I might find charming if the situation weren't so urgent.

"Veronica!" I hear.

I look past Vinny's shoulder and see Wallace striding into the room.

"Has anyone seen her?" he asks urgently.

"Weevil was the last one to see her," I inform him as he comes to stand beside me.

Vinny raises an eyebrow. "Weevil?"

"Eli Navarro," I tell him. "He told me he saw Parker running or something earlier, that she looked spooked."

"Did he say that Parker was running from him?"

"No, but if she was, why would he admit that?" I beg the question.

"Fair point," Vinny nods, trying to look professional and deeply contemplative. "I think we ought to question this Evil Navarro fellow."

"Eli Navarro," I sigh. "He goes by Weevil."

He scribbles something out. "Right, right. Why don't we get out of your hair now?"

"Oh, and Veronica," Wallace begins as the cops begin to shuffle out.

"Yeah?"

"Hi. It's nice to see you."

We turn to face each other and, despite everything, break into a grin. We end up hugging each other.

"Ugh, I missed you, boy," I inform him as I release him.

"Likewise. Are you, like, a super spy, now?" he asks.

"As sure as I know what you did the summer of '99."

"As long as you haven't read my e-mails."

"Don't tempt me."

Mac looks on at the reuniting with forced cheer, still upset about Parker. I obligatorily drop the smile and opt for a look of calm indifference.

"So, Parker," I clap my hands together. "Let's locate that girl."


Peppy determination and the dark hours of night do not go well together. The first step in my investigation was trying to knock on the doors of Parker's peers, but as it turns out, they're not really up for answering the door at half-past-really-unreasonably-late.

"I guess the interactive investigation waits until morning," I inform Wallace and Parker after the fourth door slammed in our faces. "In the meantime…"

I retrieve my phone from my pocket and dial up my lovable father.

"Hey, dad," I greet calmly.

"Hey, honey," he replies, trying to talk coherently past his grogginess. "Weren't you coming home today?"

"Yeah, I'm at Hearst right now," I tell him.

"You weren't going to stop by?"

"I had planned to, but something came up," I say. "Speaking of, you wouldn't have happened to have a noticeably attractive, blonde, college girl stashed away in the closet, would you?"

"No, I haven't kidnapped any sorority girls since last Friday. At least, not blonde ones."

"You upstanding citizen," I comment. "Well, if you see any running around looking scared, it's probably Parker Lee, and you should probably return her to Hearst at your nearest convenience."

"A girl's gone missing?" I can almost hear my dad scrunching his eyebrows with concern.

"It looks like it."

"When will people learn to stop committing crimes around the Mars family?"

"I was kind of thinking the same thing," I concur.

"I suspect we ought to watch her credit cards and track her cell phone?" he suggests.

"I wish it were that simple. She left her phone in her dorm and she doesn't usually use credit cards."

"Hmm," I hear the frown again.

"Will you see what you can find?"

"Of course, honey," he replies helpfully. "You have a good night. Or morning. I don't really know what four in the morning is considered."

"Thanks. You, too."

I stash the phone back into my pocket and turn to face my compatriots.

"There's something," I shrug as I begin to shuffle back to Mac's dorm. "Some semblance of an investigation is underway."

"What motive would someone have in taking her?" Wallace muses as the pair follows me.

"Not much to go on," I reply. "Jilted lover? Some loner who she made feel invisible in high school? A bored psycho?"

"No, I'm pretty sure Dick was in his room," Mac says. I reprimand her lightly to be kind and compassionate towards her peers. "Does it bother anyone else how passive we're being about this?"

"I think it's more repression of negative emotions more than it is passivity," I drone.

"What has Neptune done to us," Wallace muses.

"Hey!" we hear ahead of us.

Two figures are speeding towards us up ahead.

"Are they up at four at the morning or did I fall asleep in front of one of the doors we knocked on and this is all a lucid dream?" Mac wonders.

Logan and Dick trod up to us.

"Is Parker really missing?" Logan inquires, looking me straight in the eye for the first time in months.


~End of Chapter~

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