Episode 2/Part 4
The Neptune Philanthropic Society Presents
Fun Street originates from the Midway at the center of the fairgrounds, meanders through the thrill ride area, past the beer gardens, around Kiddie Land, and dead-ends at the Main Stage - an amphitheater-style venue built into a hill, with wide grassy terraces perfect for spreading out blankets for summer concerts.
Weevil's been here all day, supervising crews of volunteers in the hot August sun. The runway has been erected, jutting out from the center of the stage, and thirty round banquet tables have been arranged around it and up onto the two lowest terraces.
The heavy lifting is finished, and he steals five minutes to slip away to one of the dressing rooms to change into nicer clothing – a black suit with a crisp white button down. No tie. A fresh application of deodorant and a splash of cold water on his face, and he heads out to do a final inspection.
Upon his return, he finds that Madison and her gang have swept in to cover the tables with off-white formal table linens and fancy centerpieces made up of candles and greenery. It looks like a wedding reception to him, and he's fairly certain the horny women attending tonight won't really care whether they're sitting or standing, but then again, he's never claimed to understand the way rich people think.
The Philanthropic Society has a whole warehouse full of this junk laying around anyway. Might as well get some use out of it.
Sound check is successful. The lighting is rigged and calibrated, and Weevil needs a beer. He eyes the fancy bar on the South wall, but he's worked hard all day and is in no mood for wine tonight.
Twenty minutes until show time. That should give me just enough time to slip away to that beer garden.
"Weevil." The voice issues from fourteen evenly spaced speakers. "Need your help for a second, man."
He blows out a frustrated breath. So much for that beer. How do I let myself get dragged into these things?
DJ Arrrgh – AKA Vincent "Butters" Clemmons – still tends to dress like a pirate pimp, but he has a reputation for being the best DJ-for-hire in Neptune.
Now if we can just get him working those lights. Weevil sighs and jogs up the two steps to the control booth.
For the next several minutes, he coaches Butters on the complicated lighting system.
Onstage, Casey Gant's girlfriend – a beautiful redhead with wild curls and a turquoise wrap dress – speaks to them through her headset. "What now, boys?"
"Okay Marjorie, walk to the end of the runway," Weevil's says into the DJ mic.
He demonstrates to Butters how to make the spotlights track the woman as she follows his instructions, and makes him repeat the process four more times to be sure.
A chirp from his cell notifies him of an incoming text message, and he rolls his eyes at the content. "The Mayor wants to change his music. Again."
"No. Absolutely not. The deadline was last week. You can't just change things up at the last minute. I've prepared for this. We've had a dress rehearsal. I've set up—" Butters' voice rises and his face begins to flush.
"I'll let you tell him that." Weevil chuckles and shrugs. "He's grabbing his mp3 player from his car and he'll be here in ten minutes."
Butters rubs his brow as if to ward off a headache, muttering, "What's wrong with Marvin Gaye, anyway? Can't go wrong with the classics."
Light gleaming off golden hair catches Weevil's eye.
Speaking of the classics… Shit!
Weevil had been hoping against hope that she would change her mind about attending.
And her timing couldn't be any worse. He glances at his watch. Ten minutes to convince her to leave before Logan sees her.
Of course, they might run into each other eventually. Neptune's a small town, and it won't take long for Veronica to figure out who's running the asylum. But he's counting on Veronica's tendency to avoid what she doesn't want to face.
But once Logan learns she's back… Weevil shudders, well familiar with how single-minded the mayor can be when he wants something. And he's never wanted anything more than Veronica.
Maybe it's inevitable – round 22 of that doomed relationship from hell.
He loves both those idiots, but they're Just. Not. Good. for each other. She'll take off again, and Logan will turn emo and fall apart. And he's seen enough of that shit to last a lifetime.
She stands just inside the main entrance in a dangerous black dress he hopes Logan never has to see. On either side of her, green satin draped booths hug the inner wall. To the right, that snooty bitch, Pam, is set up to distribute the electronic auction paddles, and to the left, Madison takes pre-orders for the 2014 Bachelor calendar.
Weevil inhales as the two women lock eyes, holding the breath for several tense moments until they both look away as if by mutual agreement.
Thank God. I'm too damn exhausted to have to break up a girl fight tonight.
Veronica catches his attention, gives a small wave, and starts making her way over to the control booth.
He has to admit, it was great seeing her at dinner the other night. His high school crush has long-since burned out, replaced by a genuine warmth and affection. In some ways, she's still the same ballsy wisecracker she's always been, but there's something different about her. A weariness he hasn't seen in her since that period during senior year when she was obsessing over those 'Ahoy Mateys' tapes.
He snickers, remembering the popular radio show, and Logan's record-breaking streak as Cock of the Walk.
Look how far you've come, Echolls. Now you're merely Cock of the Poker Game.
Thanks to Veronica, Weevil was one of the few people who knew the true identities of Captain Crunk – may he rest in peace – and Imitation Crab (who at this moment, is still sulking over the proposed music switch).
He stands, moving to the booth's open doorway and bracing both palms against the wooden frame, mentally preparing arguments to convince her to leave. He won't mention Logan, of course. Nobody likes being managed – least of all Veronica Mars. Rather, he'll focus on how Wallace is a grown man, and she'll only be cramping his style. Scaring away the good ones.
"Hey," she says as she draws near, smiling and tilting her head as if a mere seven days have passed, instead of years.
Well if you want to play it that way…
His eyes sweep her body – head to toe and back up again. Damn, woman! It's more for nostalgia's sake than any overt sexual interest, but he can't deny he approves. She's filled out a bit since high school in all the right places. He returns her "Hey" with a lopsided grin of his own.
Before he has a chance to launch into his spiel, Wallace sneaks up from behind, throwing an arm around Veronica's shoulders. "Whatcha doin?"
Well there goes that argument.
Veronica makes a startled noise and presses a hand to her heart. She takes a step back to get a look at her best friend. "Damn, Papa Bear. Keep looking this good, and I'll bid for you myself."
"And I haven't even changed into my tuxedo yet." Wallace wiggles a large garment bag, and shakes a finger at her. "And don't even think about it. Don't ruin this for me, girl."
She sighs and turns to Weevil. "You're looking pretty sharp, yourself. How's it going?"
"Just finished calibrating the lights." He glances back to Butters. "Any more questions?"
"No, I think I've got it down."
"Good." Weevil hops down from the booth, bending his knees to absorb the shock of the concrete. "Why are you so early?" he asks Veronica, pulling her in for a loose one-armed hug.
Her perfume tugs at memories buried deep in his subconscious, and he forcibly ejects them from his mind. He has a good life now.
And I never stood a chance, anyway.
"Oh, I've been here all evening. Wanted to get an early start on some deep-fried everything."
Butters' voice echoes through the speakers. "All good, Marjorie. Thanks." He moves into the open doorway Weevil just vacated. "Hey, Veronica, welcome back."
"Hey! How's it going..." she pauses, as if searching her mind for the name. "...Butters?"
"Vincent," he corrects, "Vincent Clemmons. Nobody's called me by that name since high school."
Except every single person who knows you. Face it, you're not kicking that name any more than I'm kicking Weevil.
"Heard how you punched out Madison Sinclair yesterday," the DJ continues, making a bob and weave boxing gesture. "Over Logan Echolls?"
"Punched out Madison?" Veronica's mouth slackens. "I did not punch Madison, or even lay a finger on her. And it wasn't over him, anyway."
Butters glances at the sky as if replaying a conversation in his head. "Maybe the exact words I heard were 'she knocked Madison on her ass'."
"That didn't happen, either." Veronica shakes her head, exasperated. "She tripped. We argued, and her heel caught in a parking lot rut. Where'd you hear about that anyway?"
"This is Neptune." Butters reminds her in a shouldn't-you-know-that-by-now tone. "You remember the gossip mill, right?"
Veronica turns to the other two men and she raises an eyebrow in question.
Weevil merely nods curtly. Yes, he's heard the story.
"I heard about it," Wallace admits. "And you really should let go of the past."
The dangerous gleam in Veronica's narrowed eyes makes Weevil glad he's not on the receiving end of that stare.
"And why exactly am I letting the past go again?"
"You know…I've been collaborating with Madison a lot for this auction," Wallace drops his eyes and shrugs. "She's been really nice lately. She's different now."
"You ever think she was only being nice so she can suck up to Logan?" Veronica asks, her voice harsh and clipped. "You're buddies with him now, right?"
"Well that would be a lost cause, since he refuses to have any interaction with her whatsoever." Wallace leans forward to speak, his mouth stretching into a teasing grin. "And I may be mistaken, but I do believe I just heard you say the forbidden L word."
"Ha. Ha." Veronica rolls her eyes. "Speaking of Logan, I can't believe you guys didn't warn me that my ex is the County Supervisor." She punches Wallace lightly on the bicep.
Wallace's grin only widens. "Ima let Weevil field that discussion. I have to head to the dressing room to get changed." He chuckles as he walks away.
Weevil wishes he'd taken the opportunity to go get a beer. Too late now. His eyes sweep the venue, taking in the other volunteers and a few attendees come early. No sign of Logan yet.
The bar on the north wall is open for business, but he's not holding his breath.
"Well?" Veronica's voice snaps him back.
He shrugs. "I hope you can interrogate and walk at the same time, because I need a drink."
He almost hopes she won't follow. Hanging out with Veronica Mars again can only end up getting him in trouble.
Of course, she falls in at his side, remaining silent as they walk the short distance to the bar.
"Yo!" Weevil rests his elbows on the smooth, lacquered surface, and leans forward to catch the eye of the bartender – a Mexican kid with a shell necklace and an athletic build. Is he even old enough to serve alcohol? "Don't suppose you have any beer back there?"
"Sorry, man. Only wine tonight," the kid approaches, making an apologetic gesture. "By request of the Philanthropic Society." If his tone isn't indicator enough, the faint lift of his upper lip leaves no doubt over his opinion of the 09ers.
Shit! Why do they insist on punishing me?
He glances over his shoulder at V. "What're you having?"
"Pinot Grigio." She answers, sidling up next to him at the bar.
"Make it two," he tells the bartender, holding up a pair of fingers.
Veronica is studying the boy intently as he pours the pale liquid into a clear plastic cup - not surprising, with the kid's movie-star good looks. He has the sort of face that would be typecast to play the fiery Latin Lover stereotype.
"You uh…into cradle robbing these days?" Weevil asks, gesturing with his chin. "Or you still can't resist a guy in pukka shells?"
She gives him an amused eye roll, but doesn't answer.
Their drinks appear in front of them, and Weevil tosses a crisp twenty on the bar.
Veronica touches the bartender's arm before he can walk away. "You're Brandon, right? We met earlier today. At Hearst. Veronica Mars."
"I remember," the guy answers, his posture telegraphing a sort of wariness.
Veronica smiles her let-me-put-you-at-ease smile, which typically means the recipient, is in for a world of unease. "I didn't really expect on anybody to volunteer information in front of their teammates today, but if you've thought of anything since, that might help your coach, you could always tell me now."
Ahhh...so she's working the Terrance Cook case. Should have known when she mentioned Hearst.
"I don't know anything."
Weevil sips at his wine – crisp and dry, and most importantly, wet. Not beer, but not too bad either.
"You must have your suspicions, though." Veronica leans forward lowering her voice to a gossipy tone. "You seem like a smart guy. Anybody…I don't know…setting off your Spidey Senses?"
"Nope," the bartender picks up Weevil's twenty, and turns away, moving towards the cash register.
He makes it two steps when Veronica calls out, a predatory gleam in her eyes, "How about Riley Woods?"
Brandon freezes, his shoulders appearing to go rigid. When he turns back, his eyes flash with anger. "Riley had nothing to do with it! He played his heart out during that game!" he practically spits at her. "He plays his heart out every game."
"Okay," Veronica answers with a satisfied little smile. "I believe you."
About to launch into tirade, the boy pauses to process her words. "You believe me?"
"I really do." Veronica lays on the sincerity. "I don't think you or Riley had anything to do with it."
The bartender's anger seems to deflate with a sigh, his shoulders relaxing and his face slackening.
Weevil can relate all too well. Of course he would be defensive. The brown guy is always suspect #1. But who the hell is Riley, and why are you so defensive over him?
Veronica sets down her drink, and leans forward, capturing the bartender's gaze. "So who wasn't playing their heart out during that game?"
Brandon sighs and rubs at the back of his neck. "I don't know, Enbom maybe? Or Bakeman? Definitely not Riley."
Weevil can only shake his head at how easily Veronica has played this kid.
I miss the game.
He loves the calm and stability in his life since he's gone legit, but he can't deny he misses the adrenaline spikes now and then.
Well, 90% legit.
Okay fine, 80%.
"How about Luke Haldeman?" Veronica asks.
Brandon considers the question. "I don't think so. Doesn't seem like him."
"Are you aware of any money troubles Luke might be having?"
"Not really," the boy answers, turning to walk away. He turns back a moment later. "Actually, now that you mention it…"
Veronica motions for him to continue.
"A few of us drove with him once to pick up some food for a team celebration. Some pizza and wings and stuff. When he tried to pay, his credit card was declined. So was his second card. We ended up having to pool our money."
"How did he handle that?"
"He was pretty embarrassed, but it was no big deal."
"Do you remember any of your team members showing an unusual interest in Luke's money problems?"
"No. Sorry. That's all I've got." Brandon shrugs and moves to the cash register.
Veronica turns back to Weevil. "And to answer your earlier question, no, I'm not into robbing the cradle. I prefer men my own age, or older." She speaks in an unnecessarily loud voice – as if addressing Brandon, rather than himself.
"Hey, no judgment here, V." Weevil smirks and puts up both hands. "The heart wants what the heart wants."
He nearly cringes at his own words, aware of his own hypocrisy, and hopes they won't end up being thrown back in his face later when – if – he tries to convince her to stay away from Logan.
Brandon approaches with his change and Weevil motions for him to keep it. The boy gives a small wave of thanks and moves away.
Veronica slides her drink down to the end of the bar where she can stare out over the railing at the fair-goers. Lights from the tallest rides - the Ferris Wheel, The Zipper, The Giant Swings - are visible from here, and the squeals of happy children can still be heard from the nearby Kiddie Land.
Approximately one-story below, groups of teenagers engage in the typical mating rituals. Weevil thinks he recognizes his second-cousin Maria on a nearby wooden bench with that 09er boy she has wrapped around her finger. The one she's been forbidden to see, since that night she didn't come home.
"PCHers - the sequel?" Veronica points with her thumb at the gang, approaching from the north - all leather and forced swagger.
"Yeah," Weevil says, "PCH 2 - Electric Boogaloo."
"That tall one. In the middle. S'that the new leader?"
Weevil nods, a deep heaviness in his chest. "That's Rafael. Rafael Toombs."
Veronica's eyes widen in surprise.
"Yep. Younger brother of Felix and Gustavio."
"Gustavio?" She tilts her head in question.
"Reaper Gus. My predecessor in the PCH. Got on the wrong side of the Fitzpatricks." He exhales and swallows around the lump in his throat. "But Gus was a player. This kid?" He gestures vaguely. "He talks a good game, but he's not ready. He's way out of his league."
Veronica still has that way of seeing through to the heart of the matter. "And you feel responsible for him."
Weevil shrugs off the question. He barely knows Rafael. Growing up, the younger kids had been beneath their notice, but Mrs. Toombs had been like family to him.
And no mother should ever have to bury three sons.
"So you still involved in bookmaking?" Veronica changes the subject, to his relief.
"Last I checked, you're still a cop, and sports gambling is illegal in California."
"Come on." She presses his arm. "I'm all but fired by now. And I would never come after you for that."
"No." He looks her in the eyes so she'll know he's being straight with her. "Not for years, now."
She nods and sips at her wine, eyes wandering aimlessly.
"You're asking because you want to know if any unusual bets were made for that Hearst rivalry game, right?" Her lips curl up at the corners, and he continues. "Like somebody betting a large amount of money against an undefeated team. How am I doing?"
"Got it in one."
"I'm not involved in that stuff anymore, but I know which people to speak to. I'll ask around. See if I can come up with anything."
"Thank you!" Veronica gives him a spontaneous hug. Light and not particularly enthusiastic, but his eyes scan the area nevertheless, searching out one particular face.
"So moving back to where we left off earlier…" Veronica begins, "Why didn't you guys warn me about Logan's new career?"
Hell. I am not up for this conversation.
Weevil resists the urge to run a hand over his face. His eyes drift over her shoulder, where their mutual friend is approaching. "Mac's here."
Veronica spins around, inhales with a kind of joy he can't remember ever witnessing from her before, and rushes to embrace her friend. They linger for several moments moment before separating.
"You look absolutely gorgeous," Veronica says, stepping back to take in Mac's black rose-printed dress. "Love the hair."
"Thanks! So do you! Interesting dress choice. And by interesting, I mean HOT!" Mac says, and then kisses Weevil's cheek in greeting. "What are you two up to?"
Veronica angles her chin at him. "I was just trying to get to the bottom of why Weevil and Wallace allowed me to get blindsided."
"Hey. Wallace made it very clear before you arrived at the restaurant, that Logan's name was off-limits, and had been for years. By your orders." Weevil answers holding up both hands in defense. "And what do you mean by blindsided? Have you actually seen Logan?"
A bubble of laughter flares from Mac, and Veronica shoots her a warning glance.
"Yeah. Funny story." She crosses her arms over her chest. "Went to get the mayor's signature, and found the old ex-boyfriend behind the desk."
"Just freaking wonderful." He blows out a cheekful of air and wipes a hand over his face.
"How do you think I felt?" She pauses, an idea occurring to her. "Wait. Is that why you tried to discourage me from attending this auction? You were afraid I'd run into Logan."
"Something like that," he admits, smoothing out his pant legs. "Just do me a favor V, and be careful with him."
Veronica laughs off the warning. "Trust me. I can hold my own just fine against Logan Echolls."
Weevil toes at the ground. "Maybe it's not you that I'm worried about."
Nobody speaks for several seconds.
Did I just hear that correctly?
"What's that supposed to mean?" Veronica finally asks.
Weevil sighs. "Nothing. Forget I said anything."
She knows she should do exactly that - forget he'd said anything. But she wouldn't be Veronica Mars if she let things go that easily. "Are you asking me to stay away from Logan?" She keeps her tone deceptively light and sunny. Completely unaffected.
He glances over his shoulder and then back again, meeting her eyes directly. "Would it do any good if I did?"
She opens her mouth - to insist that of course she's going to stay away from Logan - but the words just won't come out.
"That's what I thought." Weevil shakes his head. "You two are like a pair of magnets - explosive magnets – that take out half a city block whenever they slam into each other."
She doesn't know how to respond without outright lying. Because he's dead on. Wasn't today and yesterday enough to convince her that she can't resist Logan's pull? Isn't that why she'd come to the decision a mere half hour ago to solve the Cook case and then get the hell out of Dodge?
"Just..." he begins, an 'I-can't-believe-I'm-actually-saying-this' expression on his face. "...don't break his heart, V."
Her jaw slackens, as if Weevil had just told her he was thinking of taking up interpretive dance. She glances as Mac for a reaction, but her friend isn't surprised.
Veronica swirls and sniffs her wine before taking a sip. How could this be the same guy who'd always been so gung-ho to step in-between her and Logan at the slightest provocation? Who'd nattered on about Logan's supposed mistreatment of Lilly. Who'd urged her to cube Logan's car for fun.
Weevil Navarro just asked ME not to break LOGAN's heart?
Veronica reaches out and pinches Weevil on the jaw line.
"Ouch! What the hell was that for?"
"Just checking for a latex mask. You're sounding an awful lot like Dick Casablancas right now."
He screws up his nose, insulted. "And here I thought I had nothing in common with that idiot. Listen V, I'm not judging what went on in the past. We both know what a fuck-up he was…"
Veronica's hackles lower. Slightly.
"…But Logan's in a good place now. And more importantly, he's doing good things. For Neptune. Nobody wants to see the return of Emo Boy."
Veronica's face remains impassive – he can't know about the Ferris Wheel. Or the desk. "I have no plans to get back together with Logan. Why do you care anyway?"
He removes his hat, lifting his eyes as if searching for guidance from the sky. "Things have changed since you left. Logan's..." His words degenerate into a garbled mumble.
"Speak up." She lifts a hand to her ear. "I didn't hear that."
Weevil squirms like a little kid caught with his hands in the cookie jar. Still mumbling, he repeats, "I said, Logan is my boy."
Veronica glances a question at Mac, who shrugs and says, "Bromance," in an isn't-it-romantic? tone.
Logan and Weevil are friends.
She almost laughs - because Weevil looks So. Damn. Uncomfortable. As if she'd found his stash of Britney CD's, or something.
He crosses his arms over his chest, and lifts his chin. Daring her to ridicule him. And a dozen jokes do spring to mind – slumber parties, nail painting, and girl talk - but she finds her curiosity outweighing her defensiveness.
"But…you two hated each other."
"Well, when you drag somebody out of their own puke enough times, you kinda start feeling responsible for them. Ya know?"
Veronica's chest tightens painfully. A part of her has always been prepared – tensed, actually – for a 3:00 AM phone call telling her Logan's self-destructive streak has gotten him killed. Whether from alcohol poisoning, or pissing somebody off enough to shoot, stab or beat him to death. Assuming he didn't kill himself first.
But he's all grown up and mature. I can relax now. Right?
Above their heads, music kicks in at a low volume - Ellie Goulding's 'Lights' - and Veronica's eyes jump to the nearest speaker tower before turning back to her friends. "So bar crawls, huh? Auspicious beginnings for a friendship."
Weevil sighs heavily. "You should know better than anyone how friendships can grow from unusual circumstances. Didn't ours begin with you asking me to prom and begging me to whip out my junk at the lunch table?" His lips curl up in a smirk. "Logan asked me to prom once, too. What is it with you two?"
Logan and Weevil.
Of course. All the times I had to keep them separated when I could have used them both, and they waited until I left to become bros.
She hasn't maintained contact with Weevil, and he owes her no loyalty. Once he'd been her soldier. Objective in a way Logan never could be. But now? If forced to choose between her and Logan, she suspects his loyalties wouldn't lie with her.
And it hurts. A little.
Not a rip-my-heart-out-now kind of hurt, but a dull should-have-been-a-better-friend sort of ache.
"I don't intend to get back together with Logan," she says in a quiet voice, hoping to placate him. "I'm choosing to remain single for the foreseeable future."
"Intentions don't matter, V. Not with you two." He drains the remainder of his wine from the plastic cup and signals for another, adding as an afterthought, "Plus, your name is on that list of his. It's practically a given."
List? Of the best things in life?
"Unless you're referring to my kiss, I'm not following." At his confused expression, she moves on. "What list?"
He seems to fumble for the correct words, before saying, "You know. Those lists. Like 'visit Rome', 'parachute out of a plane', 'run for public office'. That kind of thing."
"A bucket list?" She can't quite keep the incredulity from her voice.
He snaps his fingers. "Yeah, that's what he calls it. Once something goes on that list, I pretty much consider it done."
Nice to know I have a say in the matter.
"Are you saying Logan is ruthless?" This development would not be surprising for Logan 2004, but seems inconsistent with the man she's witnessed since being back.
"No, that would be your other ex. I'd describe Logan more as..."
"Determined," Mac says. "Very determined."
"Has anybody – besides you – actually seen this list?"
Mac holds up her hand. "I've glimpsed it. I don't know exactly what's on it, but I could see that a lot has been crossed off."
Overcome with curiosity, she turns to Weevil. "What else is on this list? Running for mayor?"
Weevil nods, "Yeah, that's on there."
He shakes his head. "Nope. You'll have to ask him that. If he wants you to know, he'll show you."
Veronica sips at her wine, trying to process this information. "That just doesn't sound like Logan. He's not a list maker. He doesn't even keep a calendar. Just relies on that scary brain of his."
Weevil shrugs as if it's no skin off his back whether she believes him or not, and light bounces off the large diamond stud in his ear.
Then again, he's the fucking mayor. Not an insignificant accomplishment.
"So he's goal oriented," she muses aloud.
Mac touches her arm. "If it helps, I'm the one who suggested the bucket list idea to him. Years ago. He needed a...touchstone – something to focus all that crazy intensity on." She lowers her voice to a stage-whisper. "He was kind of spiraling."
Veronica's heart swells, and she's never loved Mac more. She'd probably saved Logan's life, and doesn't even realize it.
Because a spiraling Logan… She shivers, refusing to complete the thought.
"I am so happy you did," Veronica says, with every ounce of sincerity she can convey.
Mac opens her mouth to respond, but pauses, glancing past Veronica at somebody approaching.
"Veronica Mars!" a familiar voice calls out. Gia Goodman strides purposely towards them, pulling a hesitant Jackie Cook behind her.
"Hello, Gia," Veronica gives her a strained smile and an uncomfortable finger wave. "Jackie."
Crap. With the current turmoil in the Cook family, bidding on a date with Joe Random Stranger probably wouldn't be high on Jackie's list of priorities.
She's here for Wallace. And he's going to be a wreck when he learns she's back.
Can I stop her? Should I stop her?
They're both adults now, and Jackie does seem to have her shit together. On the other hand, Wallace's devastation after graduation when he'd returned from New York had almost ripped Veronica's heart out. Months had passed before he'd dated again, and over a year before he'd gotten serious about anybody. She can't let Jackie break his heart again.
Fuck. I sound like Weevil now.
Gia's perfume smells of sweet cherry-candy, as she pulls Veronica into an awkward hug. "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Jackie Cook by the Midway, and now you're back too! Is it time for our reunion or something?"
"Nope. Not until 2016."
"Oh," Gia says, "I haven't seen you since Lucky Dohanic pulled a gun on us at lunch that day."
Well, that wasn't actually the last time, but we won't talk about the "study session" where I broke into your father's email.
"How long have you been back?" Gia's glittery golden dress hugs her figure and reveals a triangle of skin angling from her left waist to her stomach.
"Um...today is my third day back."
Gia pauses before speaking, tilting her head. "Your voice..." she trails off. "…where have I heard it lately?"
Oh hell! Veronica shakes her head, trying to catch her eye, but Gia doesn't notice. She stares off into space, apparently comparing Veronica's voice to an internal database.
"Gia, wait!" Veronica says, holding up both hands, at the exact moment Gia inhales sharply and covers her mouth with one hand. She laughs, pointing one slender finger at Veronica.
"You're the one! The one Logan was sexing up in his office yesterday! You yelled at me!"
"Relax!" Gia laughs and waves off Veronica's protest. "The mayor's not going to lose any votes from these guys." She gestures at Mac and Weevil.
Veronica risks a glance at her other friends. Mac and Jackie both wear bemused grins, but Weevil is fixing her his patented death glare.
Open up ground, and swallow me whole.
"This is perfect!" Gia chatters on. "I am so happy for you and Logan! Tell me all about your reunion. Was it romantic? Did you come home to be with him?"
"Gia!" Veronica holds up a hand to stop her. "We're not…what happened yesterday was an accident."
Mac snickers, and Veronica scowls, daring her to make any 'accidentally fell on his penis' jokes.
Come on, Veronica. It is kind of funny.
She turns away to hide her own amusement. The wind shifts and the aroma of roasted nuts wafts up on the breeze. Veronica glances over the railing and something below catches her attention.
"Speaking of Logan..." she points to where he's crouched in a circle of light from a streetlight, giving a bear hug to a small girl of seven or eight with long golden blonde pigtails. "Who's that kid he's with?"
Gia steps up to the railing. "Oh...that's little Lilly Kane. Duncan's daughter with Meg Manning. It's a shame I only met her the day of the bus crash – Meg, not Lilly, of course. She seemed super nice, and everybody says—"
"Gia," Veronica interrupts. "Are you saying that Duncan Kane is here tonight?"
"Duncan? No way! Not if Logan is talking to Lilly."
She visually scans the area, and sure enough, just outside the circle of light, the Ice Queen herself, Celeste Kane, waits with an armful of stuffed animals, her eyes firmly riveted on Veronica.
Veronica shivers as if somebody walked over her grave and turns back to Gia, shifting her body as a dismissive message to Celeste. "Why not?"
"Oh, Logan and Duncan don't speak anymore."
"Doesn't have anything to do with me, does it?"
Gia shakes her head. "No, they were close when Duncan first got back. Logan was like an uncle to that little girl. Then Duncan got really weird, and some business deal went bad, and they stopped talking to each other."
Wonder if I can fix that? Or would I just make it worse?
Veronica's last encounter with Duncan – a year and a half earlier – had been awkward, to say the least.
He'd shown up at the door of her San Diego apartment unannounced three days after returning to America. Waving away the circumstances of his return as "complicated", Duncan had tagged along on her dinner date with her then-boyfriend Pete. She'd been happy to see him at first, eager to catch up. But there'd been a haunted quality to him that had made her uncomfortable, and she'd detected no warmth in his eyes.
It wasn't until her boyfriend had excused himself to go to the restroom, that Duncan made it clear that he expected them to pick up exactly where they'd left off. She'd tried to be polite while turning him down – couldn't he tell she was in a relationship? – but he'd spent the remainder of the dinner sulking, and barely said goodbye before driving off after dinner.
She hadn't heard from him since.
Now, curious about Duncan's estrangement from Logan, she turns to Weevil. "Do you know what went down between them?"
"Even if I did, I'd tell you to ask Logan about it."
"Ask me about what?" Logan materializes like a ghost at her side still holding his prize bear and a large zippered garment bag.
Veronica nearly jumps out of her skin. "Nothing important, and will you stop sneaking on me? Or at least wear a bell?"
Weevil eyes her with a knowing glance.
What? Why go the direct route when I can be nosy instead? She resists the urge to do something childish. Like sticking her tongue out at him.
"Weevs," Logan says, smirking.
"Mayor," Weevil returns with enough sarcasm to infer it's an inside thing.
"You get my text?" Logan asks. "What did Butters say?"
"He turned purple and had an aneurysm. I told him if he doesn't like it, to take it up with you."
"Logan Echolls!" Jackie says in a flirtatious tone. "Well didn't you grow up handsome?"
Logan takes in the other people of the group for the first time. "Jackie Cook?" He sounds genuinely happy to see her, as he hands his garment bag to Weevil and pulls her into a tight hug. "Hot as ever."
Veronica recognizes that old burning sensation in her chest, and breathes out through her teeth.
For a period of time during senior year – between Homecoming and Wallace's return from Chicago – Veronica had suspected Logan and Jackie were fucking around. She wasn't sure where he found the time - between his trophy wife and the ingénue – but when it came to Logan, 'endurance' was most definitely the watchword.
Veronica turns away, looking out over the venue. People are arriving now in small to medium groups – mostly women, aged between 25 and 50. Trust fund 09ers and rich divorcees. A long line stretches out behind the booth where Pam Ackerman distributes electronic auction paddles, and a smaller line is queued up to pre-order bachelor calendars from Madison.
Logan releases Jackie from his embrace, and moves to kiss Mac on the cheek like a dear friend.
He rolls his eyes and shuffles his feet like an impatient ten year old as Gia straightens the lay of his black sweater, ridiculing his ability to dress himself. "What is this?" She points to a pink spot on his neck. "Lip gloss?"
Gia's focus switches to Veronica. "You'll need to be more careful when he's making public appearances," she chastises, and Veronica feels like a naughty schoolgirl. "Or at least wear a clear gloss."
A choked laugh comes from Mac, but she's composed when Veronica glances at her.
Logan tries to interrupt, but Gia rolls right over him. "And you should know better," she sighs and then softens. "But I am so happy you two have found your way back to each other. It's like a crazy love story or something. It's like…Twilight!"
Veronica's eyebrows nearly leap off her face. Um…no. Not even close. "As I mentioned earlier Gia, Logan and I are not back together."
"Your loss…" Gia huffs – or maybe it was 'your gloss'. Everyone cringes when she licks her thumb and rubs away the smudge – except for Logan, whose eyes beg for Veronica to make it stop.
"So…Jackie," Logan says when Gia finishes her grooming. "Does Wallace know you're in town?"
"No…" Jackie draws out the word, staring guiltily at her feet. "I'm still getting around to that."
Logan meets Veronica's eyes with a worried expression, and it takes her a moment to realize he's commiserating. He's as concerned as she is over how Wallace will react to Jackie's presence.
Of course. Why make friends of his own, when he can just take all of mine?
"Well guys…I'd love to stick around and chat, but I have to go make myself even more handsome," Logan snatches his garment bag from Weevil's hand, and sighs dramatically. "It's almost cruel to the other guys."
"Having to share a dressing room with your ego?" Weevil asks.
"As if I'd share a dressing room. Headliner, baby!" Logan's fingers twist around Veronica's and he tugs her back two steps, lowering his voice and ducking his head to flash the puppy dog eyes. "It's not too late to change your mind about bidding on me. If begging won't work, how about bribery?"
"Bribery? What do you have that I want?"
His mouth spreads into a wide, lecherous grin, causing her to laugh softly. "I don't know, I'm in a better position to have those even number days removed from the calendar now." He steps even closer. "I'll make it mandatory by law for all evildoers to submit to your questioning. Or how about a citywide Veronica Mars Day? A parade in your honor? Or…" He waggles his eyebrows promising incentives of a more carnal nature.
"Not a chance," Veronica chuckles and pushes him away. "I'm here for Wallace and Wallace alone."
"Fine." He exhales dramatically. "But when I'm stuck fighting off the advances of some horny 09er tomorrow, it'll be all your fault."
"As if you'd ever fight off a horny female."
"Oh, but I will. I'm taken." He holds up and wiggles the 'girlfriend' bear she'd won for him in an attempt at humor, but the light is gone from his eyes, and she knows him well enough to see she's hurt his feelings.
He'll be even more hurt when he realizes the horny 09er he'll have to fight off is Madison.
She exhales, preparing to apologize - or to at least make it clear she doesn't actually think that way about him. "Logan—"
"Echolls!" Butters jogs up to the group, interrupting her. "If you still want to change your music, we're running out of time."
"Music. Right." Logan produces an mp3 player from his pocket, handing it to Butters. "The song is already queued up. Just transfer it to your…whatever." He makes a twirling gesture with his long fingers, that's probably supposed to signify 'gadgetry', but comes across more like a magician about to pull a rabbit out of his hat.
Butters nods. "You'll come get this after the show?"
"Just give it to Weevs. He can get it back to me." Logan doesn't take the opportunity to flirt with Veronica again before leaving. Doesn't even say goodbye. Just turns and leaves.
Wonderful, he's pouting.
Maybe I went too far questioning his ability to resist random hookups.
"Hi, Mac," Butters says, heart in his eyes. "It's been a while."
Mac awkwardly hugs the man, giving him a one-two tap on the back before pulling away. "Great seeing you, but we should probably find a table before they all fill up."
"I put a reserved sign on a table earlier." Weevil leans in and points to an empty table at the foot of the runway on the right-hand side - second in location only to the one in the center. "Only fair after all the work I put in today."
"Well...I promised my friend Theresa I'd sit with her," Gia points to a redhead at a nearby table. "She's going to be broken hearted when she learns that Logan is off the market again."
Veronica doesn't waste her breath trying to correct her this time.
"But first," Gia continues. "I'd better make sure Logan knows how to tie his bow tie. Great seeing you guys. We'll have to catch up soon! Toodles!" She flits away.
Mac exhales in what sounds like relief. "Coming?" She links her arm with Veronica's.
Veronica turns to Jackie, smiling and holding out her other arm. "Join us?"
Jackie returns the smile, and links arms.
"Somebody getting married?" Veronica eyes the reserved table with a raised eyebrow. The formal table linen, centerpiece and staggered grouping of glowing ecru candles are overkill – to say the least.
"The Philanthropic Society," Mac over-annunciates in an affected "hoity-toity" voice. "Must project taste and elegance at all times."
"Anybody remember to tell the bachelors that?" Veronica takes a runway-facing seat between Mac and Jackie.
The turnout is high, with all the lower tables full, and the upper ones going quickly. Veronica experiences a twinge of guilt for her uncharitable thoughts from earlier. Sure, some of these women are on the prowl, but most are just groups of girlfriends together for a fun night out. In fact, many are dressed more conservatively than she is.
Their table is on the left side of the runway at the very end. Directly across, on the opposite side, sits Madison, Pam Ackerman, Shelly Pomroy, and one of Caitlin's blonde minions from yesterday. Between them, Mrs. Caldwell and several other society grande dames preside over the table at the foot of the runway.
"So…" Veronica turns to the woman on her left. "…I'm assuming you're here for Wallace?"
"Yeah," Jackie's speaks in a soft voice, and Veronica detects no guile in her expression. "I found an auction flyer at The Hut this afternoon. I don't blame you for not mentioning it."
"He's not going to be happy," Veronica warns. "He was pretty optimistic about meeting somebody new tonight."
Jackie nods. "I understand."
"I should stop you. I could stop you."
"I know. But I hope you won't. I need to make amends to Wallace. For the lies I told him."
Veronica sighs her capitulation. "Break his heart again, and I'll come after you."
"I wouldn't expect anything less. I remember how protective you are."
"Damn right I am! Who wants to see their closest friend get his heart broken?"
"Not Weevil, apparently," Mac says with an ironic tilt to her head.
Veronica closes her mouth, and then switches to a different topic. "Okay, Ms. Mackenzie. Jackie and I are here for Wallace. Why are you here? Have your eye on some lucky bachelor?"
"Hardly," she snorts.
"This entire experience is humiliating, but I'm better off explaining before you come to the wrong conclusion." Mac sighs and looks down at her hands, mumbling, "I'm here to bid on Dick."
An unladylike snort of laughter bursts from Veronica. "I'm not sure that service is included in the purchase price. But if you ask nicely…?"
"Honey, you don't need to pay for it," Jackie adds, "The way you're working that dress, the guys will be lining up."
"They should be paying you," Veronica says, and then snickers, covering her mouth. "...which would make you a hooker. Although…if that were a life choice you were interested in, I'm sure you would be a raving success."
"Enough!" Mac throws up her hands with a laugh. "I meant Dick with a big D! Wait…" Her cheeks turn an adorable shade of pink. "That came out wrong. Capital D. I have no personal knowledge of whether it's big or little. Nor do I ever want to find out."
Veronica's eyes widen and she drains the last of her wine. "Please tell me you're not romantically interested in Dick Casablancas." The light breeze shifts, bringing with it the scent of melted candle wax and old lady perfume.
"God, no!" Mac says, and then sighs dejectedly. "The office took up a collection, and I'm the sacrificial lamb."
"I have to hear this," Jackie says. "You work for Dick Casablancas?"
"Yes." She nods. "And my mission is to keep Gia from winning him in the auction. They're in an 'Off again' phase, and nobody at work wants them getting back together."
"I always thought Dick and Gia were kind of cute together." Jackie says. "Back in school. Although, I could never tell if they were actually dating or just flirting. Why would your office care who Dick dates?"
"That's the problem. They're too cute. Like infantile-cute. It interferes with productivity when the figurehead CEO is chasing his girlfriend through the cubicle maze. Or making out with her on the copy machine."
Veronica rolls her eyes, remembering senior year and the way Gia giggled at all of Dick's lame jokes.
Well that explains the telephone conversation I overheard yesterday. I really need to have a talk with that girl.
Mac continues. "Last month, I caught them in the break room, pointing and laughing at a foil-wrapped sandwich making sparks in the microwave."
"So the people are rising up against Dia?" Jackie asks. "Or is it Gick?"
"Well, they're mostly called GiaBlanca, but essentially, yes. They need to be kept apart for the sake of everybody's sanity."
"So that's why you kept laughing when Gia was lecturing me and Logan on decorum."
Mac makes an I-rest-my-case gesture. "Strangely enough, she's all business at the mayor's office."
At the table to their right, several women in their late thirties/early forties follow Weevil with lustful eyes as he approaches with a full bottle of wine and a small stack of cups.
"Just in time. I'm surprised they let you take that bottle." Veronica says wiggling her empty cup. She lowers her voice to a stage whisper. "What would the Philanthropic Society say?"
"They would gasp and clutch their pearls, but I don't give a fuck," He answers, "And nobody let me. I snagged the bottle when your bartender friend wasn't looking and left a fifty on the bar."
Weevil takes a seat to Mac's right, pulling a multi-tool from his pocket, and making short work of the cork. He fills four cups, and slides one to each of them.
Veronica leans forward and offers Weevil a flirty grin. "So why aren't you walking that runway tonight?"
"You know better than that."
She lowers her voice. "I know that there's a table-full of women to your right who would love to bid on a good looking guy like you. You clean up well."
He rolls his eyes and shakes his head. "Give me a break."
"Just sayin', I don't see a ring on that finger, Mr. Navarro."
Before the conversation can continue, the lights go out, flooding the area with darkness.
Muted conversations and nervous laughter issues from the nearby tables, until the stage lights come on, illuminating a beautiful redhead with thick wild curls.
"I know her…"
"Marjorie Marston," Mac leans over, whispering, "I've gotten to know her, and she's a wonderful human being."
"I met her years ago at Hearst, when I went undercover as a Zeta Theta Beta pledge. I really liked her – although I'm sure I left a pretty rotten impression."
Mac cringes. "That was the case with the wacky tobaccy grow room, right?"
"Right. I got their den mother fired. Their suffering-from-debilitating-cancer den mother. Who'd needed her job for the insurance benefits."
It's no surprise to Veronica that Marjorie Marston excels at public speaking. She uses the entire stage, welcoming the assembled attendees to the 2013 Neptune Bachelor's Auction and giving a brief history of the event, from its conception in the 1990's to last year's record proceeds. Her curls glow like blazing flames under the spotlights as she explains the rules. "Sorry ladies, only one bachelor per bidder. After successfully winning a bid, your electronic paddles will become disabled to allow other bidders to have a chance."
Veronica picks up and examines Jackie's auction paddle. Shaped like an elongated calculator, the small digital readout at the top reads "$0.00" in glowing red numbers above a gray numeric keypad. The large BID button at the bottom looks as if it would be way too easy to hit on accident. On the back is a red light she assumes goes on when the user bids.
Marjorie explains the division of proceeds – 50% going to the Neptune Food Bank, and the remaining 50% going to each bachelor's charity of choice.
"I'd like to offer a special thanks to Madison Sinclair, whose tireless work made this event possible."
The applause is tepid, and Jackie makes a little grunt of distaste. Veronica's attention switches to her old nemesis, on the opposite side of the runway. She's twisting a silver bracelet on her wrist, and looking as if she'd rather be anywhere else but on the receiving end of Pam Ackerman's gossipy whispering.
"If you haven't had a chance to order your 2014 Neptune Bachelors calendar, Maria will be taking orders until the end of the auction." Marjorie gestures to the booth Madison had been sitting at when Veronica arrived. "We'd like to thank Echo Photography Studios for so generously donating their time and energy, and we've prepared a little behind-the-scenes video to help you get to know this year's crop of bachelors."
The spotlight goes out and the giant screen turns on, accompanied by the opening notes of 'It's Raining Men'.
Hi - Hi! We're your Weather Girls
And have we got news for you
Get ready, all you lonely girls
And leave those umbrellas at home.
Veronica literally groans aloud at the cheesy predictability of the song choice, but the people nearby begin table dancing, and she has to admit, the mood is infectious. Her lips curl up in an involuntary smile.
Am I actually having fun?
On the jumbo screen, the bachelors - separately and in groups – are shown being photographed at a handful of recognizable Neptune locations.
The video spotlights each bachelor. A section on the left side of the screen – white bullet points on a black background – details names, occupations, and charity of choice, as the men are photographed in a variety of outfits (formal, career, casual, and beach wear).
Veronica hides her face in her hands at the sight of one particularly hairy bachelor in a tiny cheetah print Speedo. When she peeks between her fingers, she realizes it's Vinnie Van Lowe, and nearly throws up in her mouth.
People are squealing, though, so apparently not everyone is repelled, but Veronica fears the image may cause recurring nightmares.
When Wallace appears on screen, Jackie inhales sharply, pressing both hands to her mouth. "I always imagine him like the last time I saw him. I never expected him to be so...grown up," she says, her eyes telegraphing that she likes what she sees. Very very much.
"Yep, he's a full-scale hottie now."
"He certainly is."
Onscreen, Wallace – in a dove gray shirt and matching tie - leans over a desk to help a student…stands on the sidelines clapping in his coach's jersey…sits on a short brick wall in jeans and an untucked striped button-up…poses on the beach in long swimming trunks…and in front of a white backdrop in a sharp black tuxedo, identified as Prada in the onscreen caption.
Prada? When did Wallace start wearing Prada?
The video moves on to the next bachelor, and Veronica finds she's impatient to get to Logan's spotlight. She's caught glimpses of him in the introductory footage and group shots, but she wants to see more.
The crowd gets excited for several of the bachelors, Casey Gant and Dick Casablancas in particular, but it becomes loudest when it's Logan's turn.
Veronica's eyes widen and she takes a deep swallow of wine. "Did the entire city of Neptune forget how much they hated him while I was gone?"
"Pretty much," Mac answers. "Believe it or not, he's a pretty good mayor. But this…" She sweeps her hand out at the crowd, "…is a combination of several factors. You have the son of a movie star, and the women who still think they can touch stardom through him. You have the women looking for a politician husband to manage. To be 'the woman behind the man'. Personally, I think they should just run for office themselves, but what do I know? You have ones looking for the status he could bring them…"
"And the ones who just recognize a fine-ass man when they see him," Jackie adds.
Onscreen, Logan is in his office in a charcoal gray three-piece suit that would make Harvey Specter proud. He's photographed in his chair pretending to be busy and sitting on his desk – that desk – arms wide in a 'this-is-my-domain' gesture. He takes off his jacket, leaving the vest and crimson tie, and rolling up the sleeves on his pinstriped white shirt.
He flips through some manila folders, and then pensively stares out the window, bracing his arms on the frame.
Next, Logan is photographed in a bar setting, in dark jeans and a snug black Henley that accentuates his…everything. He sits on a barstool with a pool stick, and then is shown bent over the pool table to take a shot.
The background switches to all-white and Logan poses looking like James Bond in a Tom Ford tuxedo.
Veronica bites her lip to hold back a whimper at the sight of Logan in the sand wearing blue and white board shorts. His body could have been chiseled by Michelangelo. She's run her hands over that body hundreds of times, but there are new dips and planes and hollows she wishes she could explore and memorize without any consequences.
The Weather Girls singing about getting 'absolutely soaking wet' isn't helping her resolve any.
"God bless mother nature," she drawls, not caring who hears, and Jackie grins.
"I need to get my hands on one of those bachelor calendars."
"Why?" Mac asks. "You could have the real thing. Take your own pictures." 'If you know what I mean' is left unsaid.
"Logic. Who needs it?"
Mac smiles knowingly.
Onscreen, Logan and Wallace are on the beach, leaning against a giant boulder. Somebody tells a joke, causing them both to laugh - deep belly laughs - and Veronica's heart swells with emotion.
Maybe I should skip the calendar and track down the photographer. See if he'll sell to me directly. Shots of both of them, of course.
The song ends, and the video goes black - white letters crediting Echo Photography Studios for the footage and April Dennis for the video editing.
April Dennis? Where do I know that name?
The stage lights turn back on and Marjorie now stands on a small platform at stage right with a small man in a brown suit, she introduces as Silas Griffin, the auctioneer.
"Neptune!" Marjorie yells out. "Are you ready to meet your bachelors?"
Screams and cheers erupt from the crowd.
"Without further ado, let me introduce your first bachelor. Neptune's own sheriff, Vinnie Van Lowe!"
A head shot displays on the screen, while - at the opening horn notes of Snow's "Informer" - Vinnie bursts onto the stage.
The auctioneer starts the bidding at $500.
"Informer?" Jackie asks, wrinkling her nose as if something smells bad.
"Guess he thought he might give people ideas if he used 'I Shot the Sheriff'," Veronica answers. "Is that Kevin Bacon's tuxedo from Footloose?"
"No," Jackie answers. "Kevin's was unusual, but timeless. This is..." she waves a hand at Vinnie. "Maître d chic. He looks like a caterer or something."
The video screen reminds the audience that Vinnie's charity is the Sheriff's Athletic League.
Which a hundred bucks says Vinnie holds the purse strings.
Veronica can't contain her laughter as Vinnie swaggers down the runway, throwing his hands around like a white-boy rapper. Pointing, chopping, scratching the record, and something that looks like he's dealing a hand of poker. He lip synchs along with the song, but she's positive he's making up the words.
Nobody actually knows the lyrics to this song.
"If you're lucky enough to win a date with Vinnie Van Lowe," Veronica speaks into an imaginary microphone, "Expect to be wined and dined with a romantic dinner for two. Made with love by his very own mother. Hope you like tuna casserole. Next up, he'll whisk you off to the romantic Kearny Mesa Bowling Lanes, where he'll treat you to dollar draft beers, while he bowls with his league."
Mac laughs, while Weevil covers his face with both hands and shakes his head.
"If you hit it off, you might just get to see the back of his Sexy Times Van, followed days later by a unique keepsake video of your…" – air quotes – "…special moments together." She pauses for a moment. "For an extra $500, you'll receive his assurances that the video will never be posted online. And antibiotics should take care of that other gift."
Red lights flash in the crowd and a digital readout above the auctioneer's head displays the current bid at $725.
People are actually bidding on this Bozo?
Said Bozo is leaning down and high fiving those at tables closest to the runway. His smile slips as his eyes fall upon Veronica. She waves smugly, and his grin returns, even wider. He points at her with an I'll-be-seeing-you-soon insinuation.
The bidding tops out at $950 and, rather than the Peg-Bundy-aesthetic type Veronica expected, the winning bidder is a sedate looking woman who would look more at home in a boardroom.
That's what I get for making assumptions. But still, I would pay $950 to get out of having to go on a date with him.
The second bachelor – a sexy fireman named Joshua Cardini – wears Calvin Klein, and a fire hose prop around his neck, as he aggressively walks the runway to The Cult's "Fire Woman". Onscreen, a multi-day date package for the winning bidder is listed out next to his photo: dinner at Basil's, a tour of the Neptune fire house with a ride-along on a fire truck, and a gourmet gift basket from Capelli's market. The cougars at the next table are consistent in their blue-collar preferences, as the tiny brunette with the pixie cut wins the bid for $1000.
Scott Southerland – a good looking brain surgeon with blond hair and blue eyes – doesn't seem to project much in the sense of life force, as he ambles down the runway to Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody". His date package includes: pickup in a stretch limousine, courtesy of Moonlight Limousine, hair and makeup at the exclusive Lefevre salon, followed by dinner and drinks at Centrifuge, and box seats at the Ballet. He goes to Pam Ackerman for $1300
"Vinnie didn't have a date package," Mac observes.
"He's cheap as hell, and none of the sponsors want to be associated with him."
The crowd likes Luke Haldeman, who walks the runway to Fall Out Boy's "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark". He comes across as nervous and out of his element, but he grins when he notices Veronica, and lifts his eyebrows at her.
As the bidding increases, he seems to loosen up, his steps becoming a bit bouncier. He adds in some fist pumps in time to the song's beat. He goes for $1600 to a youngish girl with long dark hair and perfectly shaped eyebrows, who can expect an "Explore Neptune" gift basket from the Chamber of Commerce, dinner at Geraci's, and club seats to next week's Padres game.
Wonder if any of that was actually paid for out of pocket, or if his sponsors donated all of it.
Patrick Maxwell, a gorgeous restaurateur is next. He'd caught Veronica's eye on the intro video, exuding both intelligence and a hint of danger. Months ago, she might have been tempted to bid on him and the six hour yacht cruise he's offering. But now, too many conflicted feelings about Logan are swirling around in her head. Somebody far in the back wins the bid for $2000.
"Next up, Neptune High's assistant basketball coach, Wallace Fennel!"
Veronica laughs as Nelly's 'Hot in Herre' kicks in. "I see he's still hoping for that 'nonstop-Nelly-video' life," she says. "It's good to have dreams."
Onscreen, Wallace's portrait stands in profile, eyes crinkled with amusement. The girl lucky enough to win a date with her BFF can expect dinner at Café Bliss, 3 sessions of lessons at Cheek-to-Cheek Ballroom Dance Studio, and a night of dancing at Centrifuge to show off their new dancing skills.
Hundred bucks, Alicia helped him come up with that package.
Wallace's grin is huge as he dances down the runway in his tuxedo.
My boy's got moves!
Jackie appears to be overwhelmed with emotion. Her paddle lights up as she bids, and, when Wallace works his way next to their table at the end of the runway, her hand squeezes Veronica's under the table.
Wallace is really feeling his music – putting his entire body into it – and all attempts by Veronica to try to catch his attention are unsuccessful.
He dances his way back towards the stage, and the bidding become heated between Jackie and two women on the opposite side of the runway. One of them drops out at $2000, and the second runs the bid up to $2500 before letting Jackie have it.
"How far were you prepared to go?" Veronica asks
"Until I was the last one standing," Jackie answers, with an elated smile.
Julio Valentin owns the exotic car dealership in town. He struts the runway to Awolnation's "Sail" and Veronica wonders if Logan had considered this song. It would fit him.
On the opposite side of the runway, Wallace approaches and crouches down next to Madison, holding up a hand so that she can hear him over the music. Madison nods and then points at Veronica's table, and Wallace stands, turning to see who he'll be taking out on Saturday night.
It seems to take his brain a moment to catch up. At first, he smiles, obviously satisfied with Jackie's appearance. A moment later, the smile withers and his eyes become hard. He finally takes in Veronica's presence at Jackie's side, and she has to drop her eyes to escape the accusation in his gaze.
Rather than approaching, Wallace shakes his head and walks back the way he came.
Going to have to fix that.
Jackie swallows and exhales. "I was prepared for that reaction, but I'd hoped…" She nervously twists the small hand strap on her wristlet.
"He'll get over it," Weevil says, standing to refill Jackie's cup and not even trying to conceal his purloined wine bottle. "Wallace can't hold a grudge."
Veronica automatically checks if Madison is watching. She is, of course, but doesn't seem inclined to call security. Weevil refills the remaining cups and sits back down.
Veronica takes a sip and turns to Jackie. "I agree. Just show him how sincerely you regret hurting him."
Jackie nods. "That's the plan."
Veronica digs her cell out of her purse and shoots off a quick text to Wallace. I am so sorry. I gave her two days to tell you herself, before I did, but it wasn't supposed to be like this.
"Next up, Channel Five weatherman, Lars Sorenson!" Marjorie announces.
Veronica and Jackie share a glance and snort with laughter, remembering their waitress days at Java the Hut.
The person winning a date with Lars, will be invited to spend the weekend at the Neptune Film Festival – all meals and drinks included – followed up by a hot air balloon ride, where he'll demonstrate his knowledge of the weather.
"At least he doesn't have a microphone," Jackie says as the blond man attempts a painfully awkward strut to George Michael's "Faith".
"Thank god for small miracles." Veronica sips her wine and wrinkles up her nose. "Surprised it's not Air Supply."
"I remember him from the Neptune Navigator news show with Meg Manning," Mac says, "But where does the Air Supply come in?"
"Lars here, used to bring his dates to The Hut for karaoke night"
"And then pout when he was upstaged by better singers," Jackie adds. "Hey. We should get coffee tomorrow morning. You guys available?"
Weevil begs off, saying he plans to sleep in, while Veronica and Mac agree to meet at The Hut at 10:00 AM the following morning.
Lars goes for a respectable $2100 to somebody up by the bar.
Next up is Neptune's favorite veterinarian, Bronson Pope, still baby-faced in a Versace eco-vegan bamboo tuxedo.
His song choice of "Who Let the Dogs Out" should be a guaranteed eye-roller, but he somehow makes it endearing. Then again, it might be the fact that he's carrying a golden retriever puppy in his arms.
Bronson works the runway with innate confidence, but not cockiness.
His date package includes a zero-carbon footprint dinner, and a whole lot of hiking and biking in places Veronica doesn't recognize.
She leans over to Mac. "Tempted?"
Mac shrugs. "Compared to Dick Casablancas? Very tempted. But not really. He's a great guy, but unfortunately, once 'the eggplant' always 'the eggplant'."
Veronica nods sagely. "I've dated a lot of eggplants. How did you end up getting stuck with Dick duty, anyway?"
God, everything I say about the guy comes out sounding like an innuendo.
Mac rolls her eyes. "Occasionally, I have the ability to make him behave like an adult. Very few people can claim that. Plus, I can be trusted not to fall for his so-called charm and sleep with him."
Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" plays while Casey Gant emerges from backstage. He's still a very good looking man, but his trademark expression of studied boredom hasn't changed a bit since high school.
His date package is robust, though. The winning bidder will receive airfare to LA, lodging at a luxury hotel, and will be escorted by Casey to the red carpet premiere of the new Conner Larkin film, "Terminal Vengeance".
Mac leans in to speak. "Poor Marjorie probably can't bid on him, since she has hosting duties."
"Are they dating?"
"Yeah, pretty happily. How much would it suck seeing other women bid on your boyfriend?"
"I guess I'll know at the end of the show." Veronica mutters under her breath.
Weevil raises an eyebrow, and Veronica hurries to clarify. "Ex-boyfriend! You know what I meant."
Because together or apart, he will always be mine.
She exhales and shakes away the ridiculous thought. She really needs to start shutting down these possessive inclinations towards Logan. She'll be leaving town soon, anyway.
A collective gasp goes up at a nearby table full of Veronica's former classmates, when Casey goes for $4400 - the highest of the night so far - to Darcy Nichols, his ex-girlfriend.
Well, that's gonna cause some drama.
Mac's employer is up next.
"Give it up for real estate mogul, Dick Casablancas!" Marjorie announces, and the crowd goes wild.
Mac leans in again to speak. "Dick is kind of famous for his onstage antics."
The entire table groans at the opening notes of LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It". Veronica points her finger at her mouth in a gagging gesture. "I hate this song."
Dick bursts through the curtain accompanied by four backup dancers in silver bikinis.
"Oh. My. God. Has he no shame?" Veronica meets Mac's eyes and they both snort.
Dick is an energetic dancer, and his thrusts and gyrations are choreographed to be in synch with his dancers.
The onscreen caption lists Dick's charity as the Neptune Waves Foundation, and his tuxedo designer is described as custom-made. His date package includes dinner at Taste, a $300 gift card to Victoria's Secret, and three private surfing lessons.
Dick bumps. Dick grinds. Dick stops in front of Veronica's table to do a body roll. And to sneak a peek down the front of her dress. She flips him off, and when he glances up to what face belongs with the cleavage in the low cut black dress, he smirks and says "There goes Logan's balls." Or at least that's what she thinks he says - she's mostly reading lips.
Dick dances his way back to the stage, pausing at the head of the runway long enough for his backup dancers to rip off his tuxedo, exposing a pair of shiny golden boxer briefs.
"A tear-away?" Weevil exhales and lifts his eyes to the sky, but the crowd is going crazy.
The bidding is escalating, and Veronica chooses to keep the "date with Dick" jokes on the inside in deference to Mac's predicament.
Somebody in the crowd - who must be a Channing Tatum fan - begins chanting. More people join in, and soon, half the crowd is chanting: Magic Dick! Magic Dick! Magic Dick!
Mac's jaw slackens as if she's shell-shocked.
Poor girl. Has to be horrifying seeing your boss strutting his stuff in not much more than underwear, while the rest of the town loses their collective shit.
Not to mention having to bid on a date with the guy.
Magic Dick struts back down the runway without his dancers. At the very end - right next to Veronica's table, he stops, turning his back to the audience.
Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle yeah.
Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle, yeah.
Dick shakes his ass so fast, Veronica's afraid his remaining article of clothing is going to wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle right off his body. Yeah. "Is that twerking?" she asks?
"I don't think so," Mac says. "It's more like a shimmy."
Dick turns back to the audience, flashes a wide grin and a wink, and does a backflip.
And a second one.
And a third. Back to the stage.
When Veronica meets Mac's eyes again, she's laughing so hard she has to wipe away tears. "I think your boss missed his calling. If real estate doesn't work out for him, he could have a lucrative career as a stripping gymnast."
"We – the employees of Casablancas Inc. – can only dream."
The bidding is up to $3200 before it starts tapering off. Gia is fighting it out against a middle aged botoxed blonde. $3250...$3300...$3350...$3400...The blonde drops out at $3500.
"Going once...Going twice..."
Mac raises her paddle and pushes the BID button.
At her nearby table, Gia scowls and bids $3600. Mac sighs and counters with $3650. The battle wages on until Gia finally bows out, and Mac wins herself a man-child for a bargain $7000.
Dick jumps up and down like a boxer, and bounces over to the auctioneer, snatching the mic from his hand and shouting "Seven grand, baby! Beat that, Logan!"
Marjorie lets out a tight laugh as the auctioneer takes back his microphone. "I guess we're about to find out. Up next, our final bachelor. Your County Supervisor, better known as the Mayor of Neptune, Logan Echolls!
The crowd roars with excitement, and as he's the last bachelor of the night, people from the outlying tables stand to move closer.
I don't want to see this. Why didn't I leave?
The curtain opens just enough to reveal Logan leaning against an archway.
The calculated lean. That probably just bumped up his take by a grand.
He picks Veronica out of the crowd almost instantly, and his lips curl up.
Loud guitar notes kick in, and she jolts.
Garbage. Bad Boyfriend.
Veronica had been stupid (or in love) enough once to admit to him how that song sometimes played in her head when he entered a room. He'd argued that he was a very good boyfriend, but she could tell he'd been secretly delighted at the idea of having a theme song.
No wonder he changed his music at the last minute. He did it to get to me.
A strange woman with loud makeup and a dark Cleopatra-style wig squeezes her way to the foot of the runway, swaying to the music and staring at Logan as if she wanted to snatch him up and lock him in a creepy basement cage. The society matron she'd dislocated to usurp the space says something, and Cleopatra hisses at her like an angered cat. The woman scoots her chair away without another word.
Logan doesn't dance. He doesn't strut. He's not comical or anxious or insecure. He's not bored or indifferent.
Logan prowls. Like a panther – slow and predatory, his eyes locked on Veronica and that damnable smirk on his face.
Veronica's pulse speeds up. She can almost feel his body heat from here. She can almost smell his skin.
He's impeccable in his tuxedo - black, with a shawl collar, and tailored to fit him like a glove.
The jumbo screen identifies it as Tom Ford, and his charity as something called "Neptune Haven".
Wonder what that is.
Madison – or anybody rich enough to outbid her – will be receiving a full day's spa treatment, followed by dinner at Taste, and a six-week session of culinary lessons from celebrity chef, Alfonzo Day.
Damn! How much did that package cost? And why do I suddenly have the urge to learn how to cook?
At the end of the runway, Logan does a crossover spin, lifting his eyebrows at Veronica in a 'how's-that-for-smooth?' expression.
Veronica smiles widely in response.
She barely registers the bidding is up to $5000. $7000. $8000.
She wants him.
I just had him. And it didn't cost me a dime.
But I don't want anybody else to have him.
Her eyes jump to Madison on the opposite side of the runway, who looks away as if caught. She's not bidding, but why would she just yet?
Cleopatra must have run out of money. She glowers dejectedly at the electronic paddle in her hands, pulls back as if to toss it, and then thinks better of it, shoving it in her bag.
The bidding begins to taper off at around $9300, and the girls surrounding Madison begin whispering to her urgently. She sneaks a glance at Mrs. Caldwell – who's staring at her in expectation – before sighing and raising her paddle.
Veronica exhales. "Well, looks like Madison is sticking to her guns."
Jackie screws up her face in distaste. "Madison Sinclair? What is she doing now?"
"I ran into her yesterday, and she threatened to bid on Logan just to stick it to me. Not that I have any stake in Logan's—"
Weevil interrupts. "You can't let her do that, V."
"I certainly can."
"No." He scoots back his chair enough that he can touch Veronica on the arm. "You don't realize how Logan feels about her. This will kill him."
"He should have thought about that before he fucked her," Veronica says, and instantly regrets it. It's been six damn years. She can't keep letting that get to her.
"And he's already suffered for that. That's kinda the point," Weevil continues. "He can barely stand to look at Madison. Even for this auction, Wallace had to play go-between so that Logan wouldn't have to personally interact with her."
Veronica follows Logan's progress back to the stage with her eyes. "That's kind of...extreme."
And endearingly loyal. In a way.
"He says it's too painful to be around her, because every time he looks at her, he's reminded of the biggest mistake of his life." Weevil says quietly. "And for a guy to admit something like that…?" He shrugs.
"I can't do anything about that." Veronica's steady voice does not betray the ache in her chest and the deep sense of loss she's experiencing.
"Aren't you the one who wants me to stay away from Logan?"
"Yeah, but these are desperate measures."
"I just can't." She sighs and drops the unaffected act. "First, I can't give Madison the satisfaction. And second, I've made it very clear what I want from Logan. It would be cruel to lead him on and give him false hope."
Weevil shakes his head in disappointment. "No, what's cruel is leaving Logan to pay the consequences of your squabble with Madison."
She can't argue with him there, so she turns back to watch the proceedings.
At $9000, only one woman – sitting at the table to their right – is still putting up a fight. Veronica's gut churns with nausea when she recognizes her as Monica something. The wife of Aaron Echolls' former agent. One of the three women he'd banged at some Halloween party a month before his stabbing.
Poor Logan. Wasn't sharing Lilly and Kendall with his father bad enough?
Onstage, Logan has put together what's going on, and looks on in horror at the two women battling it out for his time and attention.
Why did I think I could handle this dispassionately?
Like Jackie earlier, Veronica reaches for hands under the table, squeezing Jackie's with her left and Mac's with her right. "Whatever you do, do not let me bid." she hisses.
"Kind of hard without a paddle, Veronica." Jackie reminds her.
Logan looks as if he's on the verge of vomiting, and Veronica's heart breaks a little more. Despite her decision to get away from Neptune, and his influence over her, it's been a pretty perfect night, and she hates to see it end this way.
Got something special for my Bad Boyfriend.
She makes a garbled exclamation and snatches Jackie's paddle from the table, jabbing the big red button repeatedly.
"It's disabled, Veronica. One bachelor per bidder, and Mac and I have both won."
"If you consider that winning," Mac mumbles, but she pushes the button on her own contraption anyway.
Veronica stands, eyes roaming the venue. The booth for auction paddles is vacant. One girl sitting on a stool by the exit collects the paddles as people leave. "I wonder if anybody left one behind on their table?"
"Not if they want their deposit refunded to their credit card," Mac answers.
Veronica drops heavily back into her chair.
Monica-what's-her-name shows no signs of backing down as the bid jumps to $12,000, and Veronica can't even decide which option is worse.
But the other woman had been a part of the culture and circumstances that drove Lynn Echolls' to suicide. Had probably even pretended to be her friend, while sneaking off to spare bedrooms with her husband.
And Logan is obviously thinking the same thing. He's wearing that tortured expression he only ever brings out while speaking of his father.
"We can't let this happen," she says.
"That's what I was trying to tell you," Weevil responds.
She stares at him for a long moment. "Okay, Madison will keep bidding up to $17,000. You should have enough time to sneak off and pull the fire alarm."
Weevil doesn't even hesitate, pushing back his chair, and rising to stand.
"Charity, Veronica," Mac reminds her.
"Fuck!" Veronica grabs Weevil's wrist to keep him from walking away. "She's right. We can't take that much money away from charity."
Weevil sighs, sitting back down and folding his hands over his chest.
She glances around at the remaining attendees, searching for familiar faces.
Gia's table is empty. Everyone else around is a stranger – except those already sitting with Madison, who would hardly be willing to help.
She even tries to wave over Cleopatra Crazy-Eyes – the exact kind of woman she'd come here to protect Wallace from – but the woman is lost in her own world, and wanders off towards the exit.
Logan's eyes plead with her to do something. Anything.
She raises her hand to bid, but the auctioneer ignores her. The entire system is rigged electronically, with the counter above the auctioneer's head rising with each push of Madison's button.
There's nothing I can do!
Veronica can't take it anymore. This song. And that boy. And these circumstances. It's too much.
"I have to get out of here," she mumbles as she pushes back her chair. "I'll see you guys tomorrow morning at Java."
She rushes to leave, feeling the weight of Logan's gaze on her shoulders the entire time.
By the exit, she gives it one last try, but the volunteer insists that the paddles can't be reactivated tonight.
Turning back to Logan, Veronica catches his eyes and mouths the word "Sorry," before ducking out the exit and into the night.
A/N - Thanks so much to HappilyShanghaied/ShanghaiLilly for betaing and helping me make this story even better.
A/N2 - I know it's farfetched, but trust me, the Weevil/Logan story will be told later in the story, and hopefully it will make more sense then.
A/N3 - Playlist created for this story on 8-tracks. See my profile for the link.