A bit of a short chapter, but I wanted to end on a cliffhanger, so don't kill me.
Logan, Weevil, Keith and Veronica sat huddled together at a table at the local Coffee Bean Tea & Leaf.
The diminutive blonde was in high spirits, clearly happy to be surrounded by three of her favorite men.
"I feel like I should be sitting with my back against the wall, mafia style. A person is just opening themselves up to a good whacking when they sit with their back to the door," Logan said, the exhaustion of the past 24 hours finally starting to wear on him.
"You are under my protection at the meeting of the five families," she mumbled in a bad impression of Marlon Brando from 'The Godfather'.
"There are only four of us here, Vee," Weevil said.
She rubbed her hands together like a Bond villain. "For now..."
As if on cue, the front door of the Beanery swung open and Gory Sorokin stepped inside wearing a douche uniform, consisting of brown aviators, a white and blue track suit and diamond pinky ring. Logan decided this was just too cheesy to be for real. He hated the guy's guts, but there was no way he dressed like an off-the-boat, Coney Island electronics salesman in his leisure hours.
"Speak of the devil..." Logan said under his breath as his entire body tensed.
Gory caught sight of Veronica first and a genuine smile crossed his face. Logan found this more chilling than the smug grin Gory sported while his goons kicked the shit out of him all those years ago. What the hell did he want with Ronnie? It's not like this guy was hurting in the pussy department. He had money, a decent build and a degree from a fancy private university. He was pretty much set as far as chicks were concerned.
Veronica waved Gory over and flashed him a smile of her own, though it never quite reached her eyes. God, he wanted to punch this guy in the face again so badly.
The Russian pulled out a chair and sat backwards on it, then suddenly noticed Logan sitting nearby. "Echolls. Nice to see your face finally healed," he smirked, before turning his focus back to the pretty blonde in front of him.
"Could say the same to you," he said with a nod, as he perched his elbows on the table.
Veronica slid an espresso over to Gory, which he picked up and blew on to cool down. "I hear you've gone and pissed off the wrong Russians again. You seem to have a talent for that."
He leaned on his hands and gave Gory the look of mild amusement that used to infuriate his father to no end. "...and my guidance counselor said I lacked aptitude. Guess I showed her."
"Why don't we go over the plan?" Veronica said, giving Logan a warning glare.
He knew she was doing all of this for him, but he'd rather take a risk with his life than let her make a deal with the devil on his behalf.
"Gory and I will go over to The Red Room in another hour for lunch. I'll be wearing a wire, and dad will be in the surveillance van outside with Leo," she said.
"You're going in there alone with him?" Logan asked with deep concern.
"Weevil will pose as Gory's bodyguard. He'll be wired up with hidden cameras, too," she said.
"And what am I supposed to do while my girlfriend is out there risking her life for me? Shuffleboard?" he asked, clearly vexed by his exclusion.
Keith placed a hand on his shoulder. "Logan, you're too high profile to go undercover. Besides, if somebody at the club wants you dead, it's the last place you should be hanging out."
He knew Keith was right, but it still didn't make him feel any better. The idea of Veronica walking into the lion's den with the possible ringmaster, made his skin crawl.
"So what's the plan then, you're just going to go in there and interrogate everybody wearing a sateen shell suit?" he asked, giving a cursory glance to his nemesis.
Gory finished his espresso and put the glass down then pulled out his iPhone to check a text. "My grandfather had a saying, 'Znayet koshka, ch'yo myaso s'yela'. It means 'The cat knows whose meat it has eaten'. It's a small club. If somebody there was involved with this, I'll know." He clicked the home screen button and slipped the phone back in his pocket before looking up at his companions.
"Expecting somebody?" Weevil asked with a raised eyebrow.
"I'm meeting a guy at the club," he said with a shrug.
Veronica looked uneasy. "You're taking a business meeting during an undercover investigation?"
He held out an upturned palm and looked somewhat amused. "I'm good at multitasking. I figured you, of all people, would appreciate that, Veronica."
Her body went rigid. Veronica Mars was not a fan of curve balls. "Who is the meeting with?"
"Just a guy," he said evasively.
"Yeah...that's really not gonna work for me, Gory. Do you want me to help you find out who is trying to pin Logan's hit on you or not?" she asked while wearing one of her more intimidating expressions.
He shook his head. "You and I both know you're here for him and not me," he said, jutting a thumb in Logan's direction. "I'm the bait."
"Then why did you agree to do this? Why are you paying us?" she asked.
He shifted his weight in the chair. "When we were in college, you managed to locate, intimidate, interrogate and terrorize several of my most loyal friends into ratting me out in a matter of days. You even erased Desante's entire identity and put him on an FBI watch list. I'm man enough to admit that I could learn a few things from you."
This smacked of bullshit. Logan wondered what Gory's real game was, because he knew he didn't have the humility to be schooled by a chick - even one as talented as Veronica.
"Consider it a paid tutorial in vigilante justice," he said while rubbing his hands together.
"You sure you feel comfortable palling around with a federal agent?" she asked.
Consternation creased his brow. "You're still an agent?"
She looked at him flatly. "Is that a problem for you?"
He swatted at the air. "It doesn't make a difference, I'm just surprised you never mentioned it. I'm just a businessman, milashka. I've got nothing to hide," he said with a straight face.
She took a moment to read him. "Good to know."
Logan paced outside of the bathroom in his hotel room nervously as Veronica dressed. "There's no way this guy is on the level."
"Really, Logan? Thanks for the heads up!" she shouted through the door.
He leaned against the door and drew letters on it with his finger. "Ronnie, I'm not trying to go all Fred Flintstone on you. I just have a bad feeling about this guy."
She laughed melodically through the wood door. "Really? Why didn't you say something earlier?"
A puff of laughter involuntarily escaped his lips. She was infuriating, but always entertaining.
The door clicked open and Logan backed up to give his girlfriend a wide berth to exit.
He took one look at her and gripped the wall. "Are you getting off on torturing me?"
"Why would you ask me that?" she asked, pulling down the hem of her white micro-mini skirt before adjusting the push up bra under her tight, bedazzled tank top.
His look told her not to play coy.
"I'm working undercover, Logan!" she said with exasperation.
"If you were under a cover, I wouldn't be so worried," he said while running a hand roughly through his hair.
"I have a jacket, too," she said holding up a tiny, denim bolero that barely covered anything.
He felt a wave of both arousal and nausea pass over him and he pressed his forehead to the wall.
She smiled sweetly and ambled across the room, slipping her arms around his waist from behind.
He turned around to look at her and grasped her hips. He knew he had to keep his worry in check. This was one of the big reasons they broke up in college. A ragged breath escaped his lips. "Do you get to keep the clothes afterward?"
"Would that ease the sting a bit?" she asked as she rand a finger down the center of his chest.
He shrugged. "Maybe a little...but you know what would really ease the sting?"
Her arms snaked their way around his neck as she stood on her toes to kiss him. He could feel his pants growing tighter and wondered if she would fall for his usual distraction techniques or if he'd have to pull out the big guns.
"I'm not staying here to have sex with you," she said preemptively with a bemused look.
"That's what they all say," he grumbled.
She ran her hands up the back of Logan's shirt and burrowed into his chest. If he could, he'd imprison her exactly like this for the rest of time. "I'm glad I'm back."
"I'm pretty glad you're back, too," he said before kissing the top of her head.
"I keep waiting to wake up, you know? I can't believe this is really happening," she said.
"Why?" he asked.
She shrugged. "I figured you'd have somebody by now. You're handsome, rich, brilliant..." she said, rattling off a few choice adjectives. He soaked up the praise in spades. He'd heard all of this before, but out of anybody else's mouth, it was just lip service.
She kissed his chest. "Why wouldn't some woman want to come and snap you up?"
"They tried," he said. "But, you must've known there was no way any of them could follow you. You're the Bacall to my Bogie."
"I think you're Bacall. I am, after all, the PI in this relationship," she said, correcting him.
"Tom-ah-to," he said. "Anyway...as you can see, I never really did get over you."
"No, but you certainly did get under me," she said, then followed it up by making a rim-shot sound.
"I'm being serious," he said, cupping her face tenderly before kissing her deeply. "I'll always love you."
She smiled and exhaled hard. "Me too. I mean...I'll always love you too."
He could tell she was making an effort. Finally.
She dragged him by the hand toward the door. "Come on. If you're good, maybe my dad will even let you drive the van."
"Huzzah!" he said with faux enthusiasm.
Logan and Veronica walked out of the back entrance of the hotel and were met by Gory, who was waiting in the driver's seat of his white H2, which he had idling.
Next to the H2 was an unmarked van containing Weevil, Keith and Leo, who was at the wheel.
Logan couldn't help but notice the look of appreciation on Gory's face when he saw Veronica in her outfit.
From the open side door of the van, Keith blanched at his daughter's wardrobe choice and bit down on his back teeth.
Veronica raised a hand. "Logan already covered everything you're thinking right now dad, so don't bother."
"I've said nothing," he said, defending himself.
She snorted. "Your eyes are doing that silent scream thing."
"Well, since you're the one who brought it up...that skirt, if one could call it that, is a little on the short side, no?" Keith asked.
"Yes," Logan said, answering for Veronica.
"On that note, I'm going to go," she said.
Logan cupped her face and sighed. "Don't do anything - - "
"- - stupid. Yeah, I know," she whispered, then gave Logan a quick kiss on the lips as he rubbed slow circles on her lower back.
Gory interrupted the moment by swinging open Veronica's door from the inside. "Nice job dressing the part."
"I could say the same for you. Where's your gold chain and medallion to match the track suit?" she asked as she hopped into the passenger's side of Gory's car.
He chuckled. "I brought this instead," he said with a gleam in his eye while flashing his diamond pinky ring. "A medallion would just be overkill."
"I thought that's what you people were all about," she said.
"You people?" He shook his head and leaned across Veronica's lap to close her door, brushing her bare legs with his forearm both ways. "Just trying to blend in. This whole mob thing is really more my dad's thing than mine."
Logan's face dropped along with his stomach at this display. "See you on the flip side, Bobcat," he said as she retreated.
Weevil emerged from Keith's van, dressed similar to Gory in a track suit, and walked past Logan to Gory's car, giving him a reassuring nod to silently let him know he'd be looking out for his partner.
He may not be the biggest fan of the former PCHer, but if he had to put his girlfriend's life in anyone's hands, it would be his.
Veronica and Gory entered The Red Room, trailed by Weevil.
Once past the check-in, the trio was whisked away to a prime table near the back of the club.
From the surveillance van, Logan watched the monitor helplessly along with Keith.
"Well, it's obvious why they call it The Red Room," she said, as rotated her body around the room, giving surveillance a good look at the layout through one of her hidden cameras before sliding into a red velvet booth.
The floors were covered in plush-looking, burgundy carpet with the walls painted to match. Gilded mirrors lined every surface, making it impossible not to have a 360 degree view at all times. Logan wondered if this was done for a particular reason, apart from bad taste.
The place was poorly lit though, and between the darkness and the thick cigarette smoke, it was difficult to see details more than a few feet away.
A stunning brunette with curly hair, carrying a silver tray approached the table. "Dobry den'. Rad tebya videt, Mr. Sorokin," she said, as she placed a chilled bottle of Stolichnaya Elit in a silver ice bucket on the table along with two chilled shot glasses, then opened the bottle and filled their cups.
Gory smiled. "Spasiba, Vera."
Veronica glanced up at Weevil, who was also wearing a camera and standing guard near Gory's side of the table.
" Za zdorovie," he said as he passed a shot to Veronica and held his glass aloft.
"I don't really drink, Gory," she said quietly.
"You do today," he said. "Now bottom's up."
Veronica gingerly placed the glass to her lips and let the contents slide down her throat.
Inside the van, Logan's chest began to tighten. "She doesn't have a high tolerance for alcohol, Keith."
The sheriff pulled one side of his headphones away from his ear and patted the younger man's shoulder. "She's a professional, Logan. She can handle herself."
Logan rubbed both hands over his face and took a deep breath.
"How did she know your name? I thought you said you've only been here a few times with your dad," she asked.
He poured them both another shot. "I didn't want you to think I was part of the Bratva," he said, "So I may have lied a little bit."
"Great." She tilted her head and looked him directly in the eye. "Aren't you, though...you know, Bratva?"
He shook his head. "I wasn't lying when I said I was a businessman, Veronica."
"I figured it was a euphemism," she said.
"It's not. I own a VC company. We invest mostly in tech projects," he explained as he drank his shot. "I was a finance major. I don't really dabble in my father's affairs."
"You seemed to dabble a bit when you had Logan pummeled," she said, resting both hands on the table.
Gory gently placed one of his hands on top of Veronica's. "I was a punk in college. I'm a grown man, now. You can't tell me you never did anything stupid when you were a teenager."
She laughed. "I did a lot of stupid stuff when I was a teen."
"People grow up. They change," he said with a kind smile.
Sitting anxiously in the parked van, Logan buried his face in his hands. "If he keeps this bullshit up for much longer, we're going to need a shovel to get Veronica out of there."
Keith leaned into the mic. "Weevil. See if you can get me a view of the left side of the room, behind Veronica."
The image on the monitor rotated to accommodate his request.
"Who is that?" Keith wondered as he stared at a lone figure in the corner, whose face was obscured by a newspaper.
"When is your meeting going to show up?" Veronica asked Gory as she took a small sip of her vodka in appeasement.
"He's already here," Gory said, then quickly jerked his head toward the mystery person in the corner, whose identity was heavily cloaked by the lack of light and the overabundance of newspaper.
"Why is he sitting over there instead of with us?" she asked.
Gory hesitated. "He...didn't want to scare you off until I had a chance to explain."
Weevil pulled his jacket aside for a moment and flashed Gory his weapon.
"Explain what?" Veronica snapped tersely.
"He just wants to talk to you, Veronica. That's all," he said with an earnest expression.
"If you don't tell me who that is sitting over there right now..."
Gory placed his hand on hers again. "I can do better than that," he said and snapped his fingers to catch the waitress's attention. "Budʹ laska , skazhy moho hostya , shcho my hotovi do nʹoho pryyednatysya do nas."
"Da." Vera nodded and approached the stranger, who was still concealed behind the paper.
The paper shifted slightly as Vera relayed the message, then she lifted the man's coffee onto her tray and brought it to their table. "Vin skazav , shcho bude z vamy nay̆blyzhchym chasom."
"He'll be here shortly." Gory translated for Veronica.
The silhouette rose from his seat and folded his newspaper, tucking it under his arm for safe keeping, then walked slowly toward the table.
Veronica's look of utter shock was broadcast to the monitor via Weevil's camera, but the figure wasn't noticeable on Veronica's camera for another few seconds.
"Hello Veronica. Long time no see," the man said, his voice floating toward her from the shadows. Though Veronica could clearly see the interloper, the cameras weren't able to pick him up due to the low lighting.
"I know that voice," Keith said before trying to fiddle with the picture knobs on the monitor to make the screen lighter.
Veronica's brow furrowed and a look of indignation took over her face. "What are you doing here?" she spat, then turned to Gory. "He put you up to this? You lured me here, just so he could talk to me? I said everything I needed to say to him the last time we met." She pointed at the figure and sneered.
"I'm sorry. I had no choice," Gory said, trying to explain.
"Save it," she said as she held her palm in the direction of his face in protest.
"I have nothing against you, Veronica. Never did. I'm just an instrument," their new guest said smoothly.
"Great, well then tell your maestro that his audience has just walked out," she said with a huff as she stood up to leave.
The mystery man grabbed her by the wrist, finally exposing his face to the light. "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
Keith brought a sharp intake of air into his lungs and paused the screen.
"Who the hell is that?" Logan asked with alarm.
"His name is Clarence Wiedman, and he is a very dangerous man," he said with a frown.
A/N - Dun dun dun! How many of you were expecting Gory to lead to Clarence? This conspiracy goes even deeper than you think...
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