Chapter 10 – Don't Breathe
"You were right, Logan." Cradled in Veronica's hands is a small dark box made out of paper mesh, starched into a hard shape with rounded corners.
Logan looks at the box, the approximate size of a fat paperback. He misses the connection between it and the silly bet they made earlier. "So there's thirty-five people in there."
"No, thirty-two. You loaded thirty-five bags. Unless I've got it wrong, three of them were fakes. Some kind of dummy or doll, filled with these."
"And those are…" His eyes fall to the screen in front of him. The website is named Anarchist Toys, and the video titled, 'Let's Go Thermo'. The forty-second film shows an industrial freezer exploding. A blast replaces the freezer with a huge ball of fire which dissipates to a cloud of dark smoke and then clears. Instead of the burned-out hulk you'd expect, only a raining cloud of shrapnel gives evidence the freezer had even existed.
Her hands shake as she clutches the box and gently lifts the lid. Nestled inside is a pager-like thing with two wires, one running underneath the plastic lid on an unlabeled, metal canister, the other to a small charge. "The first two bodies I checked didn't have any pockets. The third, his front pockets were empty. I rolled him over to see if he had a wallet and found this. I only checked two people so far, but both have this setup, under the clothes at their back. My guess is they all do."
Charges. The freezer. Bombs. Thirty-two bombs. She's holding one of those fuckers.
Logan sets the laptop aside and stands up achingly slow, not entire sure his knees will hold him. "Veronica—"
"They talked to us about these a year ago; they've been popping up all over the place." She tiptoes closer to him. "It looks small, but don't let it fool you. This isn't adorable and quaint, like C-4."
Think, Logan. Bombs - here. Get her out.
Lifeboat. He can load her into it and have them in the water in under two minutes. He'll paddle them away from this death ship so quietly no one will know they're missing until the morning. These waters are busy – they'll be picked up within a day, especially since she can use her phone to call for help. The FBI can probably track the phone's GPS to find them.
It takes everything in Logan to make his voice come out rational. "Ok, here's what we're gonna do—"
She cuts him off again, intent on her explanation. Despite the cold air billowing out of the freezer behind her, beads of sweat dot her upper lip.
"No, C-4 just blows up, and anything close is affected, damaged. This obliterates. Let's say you send a signal to the pager – or thirty-two pagers if you're going big. The signal sets off two groups of charges, spaced apart. The first to release the fuel, aerosol, like a can of spray paint. Given a few seconds, the fuel has some time to mix with oxygen. The second charge is the igniter."
He reaches out a hand toward the box she's holding, though it's the last thing he wants to touch. "Veronica, let me put this down and -"
The hand not supporting the (bomb it's a bomb) grabs his arm; her fingers dig in so deeply it won't surprise him if he ends up with bloody, crescent-shaped scabs tomorrow. Tomorrow – a concept that has become intangible in the last ten minutes.
"Logan, these things do the most damage in enclosed spaces. Creates a blast wave. The kind that can make you wonder what was even there a second ago because it's gone now."
An enclosed space… like a freezer on a ship.
"There's enough in there to incinerate the boat? Like in that video?"
"I don't know. I think there's enough to blow a sizable hole in it, at least, maybe kill everyone on board."
It was the oddest sensation Logan had ever experienced, being able to feel the tempo of his own heart go from adagio to prestissimo in four beats. Get. Her. Off. ThisShip.
"Veronica, put it down and follow me. We'll launch the lifeboat, call somebody from the water—," his words come out too fast, too loud, stopping abruptly when she interrupts.
"Call who? The FBI?" She drops his arm and points to herself. Her laugh is caustic, jittery. "I'm here, Logan. Me. This is my problem."
"No. Petturi can deal with this. I'll get him and then we can go." He doesn't care if it's unfair, if Petturi has his own family to consider. Right now the world is narrowed to two people: Veronica, and the son who's already lost a parent this past year.
His feet somehow carry him down the short hallway, though his joints almost give like they've been filled with jelly. He's startled when she jumps in front of him, landing herself on the first step so they're almost eye level. She's no longer holding the box, and he can only assume she set it down. Thank God.
"You can't, Logan. Think. Someone snuck bombs on this ship. They've been coming down here the past three days to put them with each body. Getting rid of the extra bags. Moving things around. Who did that?"
Mystery novels are a fantastic way to while away time on a ship. Read a few chapters, mull over the clues both obvious and benign, and make hypotheses. The process engages parts of his mind that would otherwise lay idle; it rarely matters if he ends the book satisfied or surprised; the methodology is the point.
Who do you think did all that, Logan? The man who's spent three years with a drug cartel, or one of these sailors?
It take several regulated breaths to keep him grounded to that spot because, this time, the logical conclusion complicates everything. If the other agent is involved, Veronica will refuse to go anywhere. "You're sure it was Petturi?"
Veronica drops to sit on the stairs. "No. I'm not sure of anything. It's one scenario, but I can think of three others just as likely. Each one involves somebody on this boat with an agenda."
Which means the bombs aren't the only threat she faces. Somebody went to a lot of time, trouble and expense to pull this off. They won't be happy she found out.
She can't weigh more than 115 pounds. Every muscle in his arms twitch to throw her over his shoulder and carry her away. So what if he ends up with a few claw marks; they'll heal. They always did before.
Except the determined set to her jaw tells him he'd as likely end up with a bullet in his kneecap if he even tries. Despite the abject fear still bleaching her complexion, she's taken ownership of this. Which means he has the choice to fight her, or help her.
To help her they have to get on the same page of this fucking whodunit.
"Okay, question." His thoughts spin and settle, organizing themselves. "Why arm each individual corpse? If they wanted to get rid of the bodies they could have just blown up the yacht. Or blown up our ship by now."
"Well then, getting rid of the bodies wasn't their first priority." Veronica rests her elbows on her knees, her voice finally evening out as she analyzes the situation. "If we know what is, then maybe we can figure out who's behind it."
"Where do the bodies go, once we dock? You said most of the agents are out of Chicago."
She cocks her head, studying him. "I don't know. My job was ending once we reach L.A., and I didn't ask a lot of questions."
Logan can't help when his eyebrows raise in surprise at that. She lifts one of hers and reminds him, "Hey, at the time I was a little preoccupied with your death to really focus on anything else."
And a wise man once said… nothing.
"So what do we do?" he asks instead.
"Preventative measures. It's," she grabs his wrist and checks his watch, "quarter to two now. We have about three hours before we dock. I need to work the phones, get a whack of people out of bed and make sure we have a prepared team waiting for us."
"And me?" There's no way she can expect him to just watch her work. Every nerve ending is on fire, screaming for action.
She stands up, her lower lip caught under her teeth. "Could you stay close by? Maybe keep watch on deck while I do this?"
Mark this one on the calendar, folks. Veronica Mars actually asked a stupid question.
Logan nods and passes by her as he heads up the stairs, stopping to link his pinky with hers. When she turns to look at him he gives her a small smile, meant to reassure. She lets her head fall forward against his shoulder. While they stand that way, he can feel strength transfer between them.
With a small kiss on top of her head, Logan releases her hand. They move in opposite directions; Veronica down the stairs, him outside to hunker in the shadows near the door and watch for any movement in the night, gun in hand.
In the thirty minutes he waits, little happens – a few bursts of laughter from the mess, and Chuck and George take turns going in and out of the head. No surprise. The two men share the same brain and Chuck got the bulk of it; George probably didn't even know he needed to piss until Chuck did it first.
The only other person he sees moving around is the night navigator, Vincente. Starting from Winston's perch, he went down to the wheelhouse to spend five minutes with Diego, then moved toward the engine room. Given it's his job to keep them on course and check for mechanical problems, there's nothing noteworthy about it. The only problem is that when he entered the mess a few minutes after that, he never came back out. The navigator was supposed to keep his mind on his job, not poker.
A "pssst" sounds behind him, permission to rise out of his crouch and go back inside. "Did you get ahold of anybody?" he asks.
"Yeah, things are starting to happen on that end."
Until she confirmed that she had the support of other agents, he hadn't realized how much of this he'd been carrying on his own back. People are now involved that knew what they're doing, unlike him. His hands flex with the release of tension that flows out of them. "So we evacuate, right?"
His mind hadn't been idle while he waited. The smartest move would be to get as much distance from the bombs as possible. He'd been selfish before, only thinking of Veronica. Whoever the bad egg was, Petturi or someone else, they likely wouldn't blow themselves up. Get everyone to safety and then figure it out. In his head he's already assigned jobs to each crew member to make Operation Abandon Ship happen, and fast.
"No, we don't."
He gapes at her, incredulous. "Why the fuck not?"
"Two reasons. First, it would tip off that we know. The perp wouldn't even need a gun to hold us hostage, just the signal to set off the bombs. Second, there's more boat traffic near us, right?"
There was. Late spring is always busy in this stretch of sea and they'd seen several cruise ships, fishing vessels, sailboats, yachts, and cargo ships like theirs. "So? What does that have to do with anything?"
Her mouth tightens and he can sense the impatience behind it. "If I were to try and pull off something like this, I'd follow as close as possible. That way I could keep my eye on things and be around to help out my guy if he ends up in a tight spot. Bring reinforcements or pick him up, if needed. The more boats around, the closer I could get, and you would think I was just following the same route."
There had been a few ships heading in their same direction, but nothing noteworthy. If it were Logan, he'd choose a sailboat. They traveled faster than a cargo ship so it would be easy to pull ahead, anchor for a while, and then catch up again. But her concern that someone will set the bombs off early makes his heart twinge. Last he knew they had neither incentive nor timetable for this little fireworks show. "Early? Earlier than what?"
"If I had to guess? After we get to L.A." He must look as lost as he feels because she doesn't wait for him to ask the question. "Logan, if they wanted to blow up your ship, they wouldn't have hidden the bombs on the bodies. No one should've examined those victims until they were in the morgue. That's where they're going."
"The morgue," he repeats.
"Yeah, the morgue. In the basement of the FBI building in L.A. At the least? They'll kill several agents. At the worst? Structural damage." She staring at him, her eyes imploring for him to picture the aftereffects of such an act.
If the bombs detonate now, they'd kill a grand total of twelve souls. Much more they'd gone off in the morgue. But the sinking feeling in his stomach tells him lessening the damage isn't enough. "Just spit it out, Veronica. What's the plan? Are they sending help?"
"No. It would take too long and ruin the primary objective." Veronica's hesitation comes through in her tone, "Neutralize the threat before he, or they, figure out we know. Which means I need to disconnect all the bombs as soon as possible."
They want her to handle those things? Line drawn right fucking here.
He puts his hands on his hips and backs up a step, his back flush against the wall in a pose of forced casualness. "Because you've become an explosives expert in the last ten years? Tell them it's above your pay grade and they can fuck off." All the orders he's had to give over the past decade have been written or mimed. He's almost proud to note the finely-honed authority he's developed comes blaring through his voice anyway.
All it gets him with Veronica is a sigh of forced patience. "We're not talking red wire, blue wire here. I just have to take the batteries out of the pagers—"
She pulls the ringing phone out of her pocket, and her end of the conversation is a series of '"Yes, sir" and "No, sir" between long periods of silence. Her laptop is still on the floor and she drops down to it. Logan watches her, involved in making plans and answering questions. She's intent, professional. Busy.
All that needs to be done is taking the batteries out of the pagers. If you do that part, she can stay out here. It's the safest you can make her, under the circumstances.
You want me to handle bombs. Move around corpses. Are you fucking kidding me?
Fine, Dickless. Put a message in a bottle to Gai. Something like, "Gee, I'm real sorry your mom blew up, Ricky."
He can do this. For her, for Gai, and for himself. An act of redemption, if you will; likely written for him when he ran away all those years ago. It's debatable whether that decision was made out of cowardice or self-sacrifice – he'd answer differently depending on which day you asked.
But if running away was a choice, this has the hands of the Moirai all over it. Those goddesses of fate are fickle bitches - callous hags without an ounce of fairness among them.
They didn't put Veronica on his ship for a mere reconciliation, nor so Logan can become a minor participant in his son's life. No - the first was an inducement, the second a prize in the offing if, and only if they run this gauntlet. And survive.
Oddly, this realization replaces every trace of his panic with a strong resolve. He and Veronica will defeat this…terrorist? extremist? Trashcan Man? and they'll do it together.
Veronica finishes her call and stands up, pulling gloves out of her pocket. Her laptop dings to let her know she has a new message, but she ignores it when Logan takes the gloves out of her hands.
"You've got people to talk to. I'll get started on this and check in with you in a little while."
She frowns and reaches for the gloves, her mouth turning down in irritation when he raises them out of her reach. "Logan I can't ask you to—"
"You didn't," he tells her as he pulls the smooth, purple latex tight over his larger hands. Fortunately the gloves had been big on her, so his moment of gallantry isn't ruined with an OJ replay.
"No, I mean I can't. You're a civilian. Your safety is my priority and I can't put you at risk."
He smirks at the irony of this. He'd been safe for the past eleven years, since he'd given up his identity and started his new life. Her presence had already put him at risk of being found by a Russian madman. The bombs were the least of it. "You said it was easy, just pulling batteries. Were you lying?"
"No, but it's still not your job."
"Sure it is. You're on my ship."
She narrows her eyes at him. "I already told you it's mine, for the duration of this case anyway." Her laptop dings again, splitting her attention between him and whoever is trying to get a hold of her. He steps a few feet closer to the freezer door.
Her phone rings Logan can see her hand reach for it, and the tension leave her shoulders in defeat, even if she won't admit it yet. "Logan, I can handle this. I just need a few minutes…"
The computer chimes again, a tinny accompaniment to her frustrated groan. Logan laughs and takes the last step, reaching out to grab the door handle. "Then consider it a," he pauses for effect, tilts his head and blinks his eyes in a flirting manner, "favor."
He has her. The way her eyes soften and she's unable to keep her mouth from turning up at the corners, he knows she's done fighting him. She sighs and shakes her head. "Well, well, Mr. Echolls. Whatever did I do to deserve such a kindness?"
He winks, "You kind of had me at you're the mother of my child."
Veronica snickers and reaches in her back pocket, pulling out the phone that's ringing again. "Just a minute," she answers and covers the receiver, not even bothering with a 'hello' before she gives Logan her attention again. "Wow. Tell me how many favors that gets me so I can use them wisely."
"Hmm…" he pretends to consider, scooping up the coat where it lays by the door, "favors of this caliber? A hundred should cover it."
She purses her mouth in thought. "When Gai was two he spilled an entire container of fine-grain glitter in my car. The kind that's impossible to clean up, and sticks to the skin. Add that to my earlier sex tape and pregnancy, the rest of my senior year everyone thought I worked as a stripper."
Remembering the Seventh Veil girl's propensity for glamming up with body-glitter, Logan grimaces. But some color has returned to Veronica's cheeks, matching the pink-lipped grin she's biting back that lacks any resentment. "Okay, a hundred thousand favors. Now let me get to work. You can file a formal complaint with the grievance department for anything else."
She chuckles, but turns serious again. This time it's her tilting her head, but not for affect. "Logan, thanks. It helps, to know you're in this with me."
In that moment, despite everything, he wouldn't want to be anywhere else. It's unfathomable to imagine her doing this by herself.
"Yeah, what are friends for, right?"
Veronica lets out that familiar, lopsided smile. "Womb to tomb." She winces as soon as the words leave her mouth, "Though I'd appreciate if you didn't take that last part literally tonight." She tells the person on the phone to hold on one more second, then says, "I'll turn out the lights and hide under the stairs. That way if someone comes down here, I'll see them first. Let me know you if you need anything."
Approaching the first cadaver, Logan squats down. The pistol at his back slides up irritatingly so he shoves it in his coat pocket. It'll be easier to grab than reaching under the bulk of the jacket, should he need it.
Until now he'd been removed from this, standing behind Veronica and taking only a couple brief glances at the dead. After a few deep breaths and colorful curses he works up the nerve to unzip the black, shiny bag and peel it open. Inside is a woman. Middle aged, dressed in a white uniform common to a yacht crew member.
So, choice: lift the body and do this by touch, or roll it to the side?
Rounded shoulders and arms means it's a balancing act to keep the body on its side while working out the bomb. Also, calling them stiffs at this point is a misnomer. The corpses are cold, not frozen. He has to put his hand underneath the woman's backside and shoulder, lift and push. Then he supports her with one hand while his other pulls up enough clothes to get at the bomb and reverse everything to put her down gently.
With the next body he finds that lifting is quicker, but comes with its own grab bag of issues - the worst when his face is only inches from the cadaver's. The first victim he disarms this way is a man with large pores, skin cratered along his cheeks, and untrimmed nose hairs. The man's eyes are mercifully closed, but his mouth is open and the smell of rot escapes with the movement. It's a foul reminder that these poor people weren't found until several hours after their deaths.
Don't think. Don't breathe. Close your eyes. You just need to feel.
The bomb is secured inside the shirt at the man's back. It takes dexterity and strength to untuck the shirt and pull out the device while keeping the body elevated, but it can be done fast; his job doesn't need finesse.
Whoever hid the things so well had to work a lot harder to ensure a casual inspection wouldn't turn up the explosives. It makes sense that, given the frigid room, the job took three nights to complete.
By the fifth body, his nausea trumped by a creepy sensation. The room is too quiet, the hum and crackle of the cooling unit sounding more and more like the soundtrack to a horror film. The crescendo is when he has to entirely lift a woman's dress to get at the device secured by her bra. It's that or undo the thirty tiny buttons than run the length of her dress, and he just can't take the time. The sense of violation isn't helped by the discovery that her undergarment choices weren't modest.
He sheds the jacket. The work of moving around the heavy bodies is keeping him warm enough, and flop sweat brought on by anxiety over handling live bombs is sticky. The work requires no thought though, just unzip, lift, grope, extract. He shoves the batteries into the giant pockets of the jacket lying by his knees and leaves the bomb in with the body. In an attempt to occupy his brain while his hands do their job, he searches his mind for a distraction.
All he comes up with is a rock song his dad had played ad nauseam when preparing for 'The Long Haul.' The source is distasteful, and he can't remember the last few verses, but he sings it anyway since it's better than the alternative silence.
Looking out the window, the trees are getting closer it seems.
Thinking 'bout you Darling.
Adding up the cost of these dreams.
Strapped to this projectile, just a blink ago I was back in school.
Smoking by the gym door, practicing my rock-star attitude
And I'm scared shitless of what's coming next.
I'm scared shitless, these angels I see in the trees are waiting for me.
The song is almost tuneless; not a shanty that sets a rhythm, but it helps – though the 70s obsessed DJ in his head needs a serious talking to. When he gets to end of the first row, he heads up the second, repeating the song for what must be the twentieth time. By the mid-point his hands have a difficult time gripping; even the jacket he put back on isn't enough and he knows he needs to take a break and get warmed up. The room is just too damn cold.
Entering the dark hallway he sees Veronica scrunched under the stairs, lit up by the display on her keyboard. She looks up when he comes out, the question in her eyes but she asks it anyway. "Where are we?"
"Halfway, but if I don't take a break, it'll be like I stepped in liquid nitrogen. Then one blast of the shotgun and I'll break into chunks. What about you?"
She turns back to her keyboard and keeps typing. "I think the shotgun thing wouldn't end well, frozen or not. They've put a block on Petturi's phone and email accounts. If he's in collusion with anyone else in the FBI, they can't tip him off. They're also putting together what we need at the dock."
Logan ducks under the stairs and sits next to her, reading the instant message conversation she has in progress on her screen. "So they haven't found anything linking him to all of this?"
"Nothing yet, but it doesn't rule him out. I'm just floating theories while I wait for final confirmation of what they want from me once we get into port." She types the word 'Carabineros' after a question about possible conspirators.
He frowns at her. "You think Chile's national police force is involved?"
Veronica glances up at him. "Not the entire police force. But they were first on scene and helped load. It would be easier to pull this off if some of them were in on it."
As she keeps typing Logan puts his head against the wall and wiggles his fingers. The blood is moving a little freer in his hands as he warms up. When Veronica sets the laptop to the side, he turns to look at her, her face half dark and half light, like the contrasting sides of the moon. "Do you ever miss the boring days of cheating spouses and missing mascots?" he asks.
She pulls up her knees to rest her elbows on and clasps her hands in front of her. Her laugh is low. "Was the PI business ever that benign? I think those cases just paid the bills while I chased down murderers and rapists."
Logan grimaces, not appreciating the joke. "Good point, at least from what I remember. What about after I left town?"
"I had a few calm years." She gives a little smile. "My dad grounded me to office work while I was pregnant, and then the least risky cases after Gai was born. I didn't argue; I had enough to handle between school and raising a son."
"Did Neptune become the purported safe haven?" The ideal picture their city council painted never jibed with the town he lived in.
"Lord, no," she laughs. "The Fitzpatrick's got complete freedom while Vinnie was sheriff, and it took my dad four years to get enough evidence to bring in the feds and take them down. None of which he told me about until after all the arrests."
There's pride in her face when she looks at him, and a little something else. "Were you jealous?" he asks.
Her eyes turn to slits and she shakes her head, chuckling. "As green as the shamrock Liam tried to tattoo on my face."
"Yeah, that's not funny." Some things he'll never be able to laugh about. Walking into The River Stix and finding her pinned down on that pool table is one of them. If his gun had been loaded Liam wouldn't have walked away from that encounter.
"Not as funny as all the unicorn jokes I've made since Mercer's sentencing, but –"
"Veronica!" The surprise in his tone makes her roll her eyes. She doesn't have to point it out for him to remember all the cracks he made about his dad being a murder, and his mom showing up bloated and bug eyed in a fishing net. While he doesn't own the patent on dark humor, it still surprises him, coming from her. Something he's too tired to deal with right now.
He's still within the soft confines of his coat, cushioned against the hard wall at his back. The little he can see goes muzzy when he yawns, and his eyes squint shut. "What about now? Do you like what you do?"
The laptop next to her makes that annoying message sound again. "Yeah," she answers distractedly as she scoops it up. "Well enough. The investigation is varied, and sometimes it's even fun. I'm usually not dealing with murder or, um..."
He's lost her to an email, but he needs a couple more minutes before he goes back in the cold. The comparative warmth of the hallway seeps into his skin, relaxing muscles he's kept tight for too long now. The room is dark and their corner under the stairs cozy.
This time he doesn't read over her shoulder. His head rests against the wall behind him; she'll let him know if something important comes up.
The hammock moves under his cheek, prompting Logan to open his eyes. A small room, lined with full bookshelves. Two large picture windows meet in one corner, lighting up a small table covered in painting paraphernalia, a stool, and an easel. The canvas resting there depicts a half-painted portrait, the background of a large lilac bush completed and vivid. A face is outlined but not yet finished, and he's too far away to make it out on the photograph that's pinned on the side.
Weird. Eva doesn't paint people.
The faint scent of vanilla reaches him, making his stomach growl in interest. He has to turn his head to see the kitchen doorway, and in the process is delighted to note the roof has completely disappeared from their house. The blue, almost cloudless sky forms a canopy even more appealing than the wood beams.
From this angle, the most he can see of the kitchen is a corner of the cabinets and a tiny triangle of floor. A shadow moves over it; humming sounds and clattering pans indicates the presence of someone else.
Eva, baking. A cake, cookies – something sweet from the smell of it. What a luxurious debate: give into the desire to sleep again or go in to steal a fingerful of batter? He's just decided on the first when the shadow moves again.
It's her, standing almost as tall as the doorway. She is impossibly beautiful. The dress is a loose-fitting jersey - the one that has such a wild, colorful print you have to look close to notice some of the variations are due to spattered paint. Her waist-length, straight black hair is pulled back, making her high cheekbones and strong jawline even more apparent.
In her hand is a round spoonful of cookie dough, and she's holding it out in offering. "You want some?" she asks, purposely pronouncing the 'y' of 'you' with a soft 'j' sound because he finds it sexy.
He chuckles, but bypasses the opportunity to answer her innocent question with an innuendo. Instead he holds out his hand and beckons. "Bring it over here."
She does, padding softly across the wooden floors, the new varnish shiny under her feet. They've perfected this, the subtle balance required to get two of them in the hammock without tipping it over. Her solid form nestles against his side, one long leg thrown across his hips. She places the spoon in his mouth but the dough is tasteless and disappears at once from his tongue. He removes the utensil and throws it to the floor.
Their heads are turned toward each other and he studies her features, memorizing them all over again. "It's good to be home," he says.
Eva frowns, "And you be home?"
He laughs and kisses her nose, stretching his arm to pull at her hip, settling her more solidly over him. "Sure feels like it."
She opens her mouth and whispers, "Logan," all trace of her accent gone. The fingertips that brush his cheek are incongruously cold when he expected her usual warmth.
The sunlit room fades, taking Eva with it and leaving a hollow feeling in his belly. His head weighs a thousand pounds, impossible to lift despite the rise and fall of the hard thing his cheek is resting on.
"Logan." A voice reaches out to him from the dark, from the past, letting him know he's still dreaming; the cold fingertips trace his cheek again. "Logan, wake up."
"Logan, come on. Just hang in with me a little longer."
The hard thing under his cheek moves again. A shoulder, it's a shoulder. His head falls forward, weighed down by sleep and gravity. With extreme effort he's able to lift it up, but his eyes are dry and having a hard time staying open.
"Fine. Sleep. But when we blow up I'm telling my dad."
Blow up? Veronica. Ship. Bodies. Bombs. Tell her dad? Fuck, Keith Mars is still scary. Logan sniggers and leans forward, using his fingertip to rub his eyes open. The euphoric world of his dream has disappeared, replaced by this scary-ass reality. "I'm up. I'm up. Anything new?" He works his feet under him. The wall works for balance as he rises to a crouch and gets out from under the stairs.
"Zilch with Petturi," she offers. Her voice drops and she gets up, standing in front of him. "When we get to the dock it's going to look like there's a semi and just a few agents to load the bodies. But, the place will be crawling with feds. They're taking everyone into custody as quickly and quietly as possible."
"What," he clears his throat noisily, trying to dislodge a lump that's trying to cut off his airway. But really, he should have understood this would end with him in handcuffs. Which is fine as long as his name doesn't hit the news. He's glad the only light is a faint glow from her laptop so she can't easily see his face. "What did you say about me?"
"Everything." She grabs his hand and moves a bit closer. "Logan, I had to give them the names of everyone on the crew, and the truth will come out when they fingerprint you. I wanted to make it clear you're the one who first noticed something was off with the victims, and that I trust you."
Those three little words shouldn't spread a warm feeling through his belly, not in the middle of this fiasco. They shouldn't make him feel a little drunk with giddiness, either. Doesn't stop them from doing it though.
In thanks, Logan squeezes the hand that's holding his. "Did you tell them about Diego, and the ring?"
"No. I've gotten pretty good at reading people and he's either the best actor in the world, or had nothing to do with the rest of this. I thought we could leave him out of it, don't you?"
As relieved as he is for his friend, his grin feels disingenuous. He lets go of her hand and runs his fingers through his shortened locks. "Lucky Diego. So, they're okay with me helping you? You know, since I'm the poster child for mayhem and all that."
Will there ever be an occasion my past doesn't bite me on the ass? I'm surprised there's anything left there to sit on.
She shrugs but her shoulders stay too high, showing the nonchalant move is false. "There might have been a few threats along the lines of if I'm wrong, it's not just my life but my career I'm risking. Guess which one they think is more important?"
"Then I guess I better prove you right and get back in there. It's," he pushes the button to light up his watch face, "three forty-five. I don't know if I have time to finish all these by myself."
"Just do your best. I need a little longer, then I should be able to lend a hand."
Ten minutes pass. Fifteen. He shouldn't be obsessing over the time, but he doesn't want to be in here alone anymore. Even the words from that stupid song are escaping him. Every bit of cold flesh he touches is burnt upon his hands. Each face he's come close to is so entrenched in his memory they're sure to appear in his nightmares. The only bright side is that he can narrow down his new career options to anything that doesn't involve dealing with the dead.
Worse, is that the number of bodies compared to the number of minutes they have left may not work out. He tries to hurry, but his hands are stiff again. The fine work required to unzip bags, release the catches on clothing, and open the battery hatch on the pagers is difficult. Taking time out to stick his hands in his armpits feels like a waste, though a necessary one.
Only six bodies are left when he hears a sound at the door. Hope surges in his throat that, with her help, they'll get this done in time. But it dissipates when she doesn't come in, and he has to keep working. Alone.
Finally, an interminable ninety seconds later, though it feels closer to ten minutes, the door opens. Veronica enters, but her hands are gloveless. And raised. The angry look on her face makes his smartass remark die on his tongue, and he could swallow it when he spots the gun raised above her head.
She takes three steps inside and he can see behind her. The hallway is still dark, but the light in the freezer is bright enough to make out Vincente give her a hard shove.
Vincente. He's new, a stranger. Free rein of the ship at night. So easy for him.
But it wouldn't have been too easy. The navigator has to check in with the captain or helmsman repeatedly, letting him know how the engines are faring and monitoring their course. He would have to have been on hand to give bathroom and food breaks to both Diego and Winston. Which means to pull this off, and not be observed making repeated visits below deck, Vincente has to be one stealthy motherfucker.
Logan jumps to his feet, almost kicking the head of the woman he just disarmed.
"Monk?" Vincente's face is that of a livid man. "Well, I shouldn't be surprised. Give a man his first taste of pussy in ten years, he'll do anything to keep getting it."
Veronica's pressing her lips together, shaking her head just the slightest bit.
Despite the ball of rage that forms in his stomach Logan hangs his head forward and raises it. It's the best approximation of a nod he can sneak in; he won't speak if she's thinks it will give them any advantage.
The room is silent as Vincente analyzes the scene, his eyes stopping at the woman Logan was just working over. The bomb is lying open, the back of the pager open.
"You fucker," Vincente spits out. "Do you have any idea how much planning this took? What you've done to —" He takes in a deep breath and shakes his head. "Right. Okay, you, Monk. Hands up. And you, Fed. Move over by your boyfriend there."
The coat is considerably heavier than usual, the pockets weighed down with over a fifty batteries. And the pistol. Despite the coat, a chill that's not entirely due to the temperature spreads from Logan's hands to envelop his torso. Chances are that by gun or by bomb, this will end in bloodshed.
Veronica breath is coming in shallow gasps as she tiptoes around the bags, careful not to step on anyone. Instead of standing to his side, she moves in front of Logan and presses close. Strangely close. Her back is flush with his chest, her backside pressing to almost grind against his pelvis.
Okay… strange time to be getting your freak on… oh.
The hard bulge of her small gun, hidden by the folds of her shirts, pushes against him. So she's still armed, and he has the best chance of taking advantage of that, being behind her. He could have it out in a second, given the right opening.
A blast of cold air pushes out of the vent closest to their heads, sending a shiver through each of them. "He turned the temperature all the way down," Veronica informs him, loud enough that Vincente hears her over the other noises in here.
"Yeah, for a good reason. Sorry lady, no cuddling allowed. Step away from each other. This ain't no love story we're filming in here."
As long as the gun is pointed at them, neither he nor Veronica can make a move other than the ones they're ordered to. Veronica steps to his right. Logan chances a full look at her face, to see how she is handling this, and is gratified to see she's still pissed. If she had the power to incinerate with her eyes, Vincente would be a pile of ash by now.
But other things Logan notices as well, proof that she didn't end up at the business end of a gun without a fight. Her left ear is deep red, darkening more as a bruise forms, and her right pointer finger is bent at a slight angle, and swollen. Broken and disjointed fingers are nothing new to a seaman, and he knows it's going to hurt like a son of a bitch soon, if it doesn't already. Good luck to her using a gun in the meantime.
Which gets you off the plate, Veronica, and means I'm up.
"Okay, we do this fast. How many bombs are left?" Vincente asks.
Logan folds down four fingers, leaving six standing. It might benefit them to lie, but he can't see how.
"Six!" Vincente mutters some indecipherable cursing. They all share a moment of quiet while he thinks, his face screwing up painfully. "What's waiting at the dock?"
Veronica is quiet, her glare saying "Fuck you" very eloquently. The cocking of the gun makes its point, though. She spits out, "A battalion of feds, an arrest, a conviction, and the rest of your life in a federal pen."
Admiration and chagrin run through Logan. She still hasn't learned to be gentle with people holding a gun at her head, but she's still the ballsiest person he's ever known.
"You think so?" Vincente laughs, low and hollow. "Well, let's just say I have my own plans about that. Now, strip from the waist up, and throw me your clothes."
They follow orders, but only after Veronica gets off another glare to let their captor know she's doing it under duress. The heavy thunk when his big coat falls at Vincente's feet makes Logan wince.
The pistol. In the pocket.
Vincente keeps the gun pointed on them and bends down to dig in a pocket of the jacket, investigating the source of the noise. He comes up with a handful of batteries, from the pocket not occupied by the pistol. "Should make you put these back in, motherfucker. You have no idea how much you've screwed me. Allow me to return the favor."
Logan watches, helpless, as Vincente pulls on the coat and backs toward the door, taking the rest of their clothes with him.
He's going to lock us in here. Half-naked. Temperature control in the hallway.
Since they're only thirty minutes from help their chances are better in here than risking getting shot. Knowing that doesn't keep Logan's weight from shifting back and forth between his feet; all his self-control goes into squelching the urge to attack this son of a bitch.
"M-Malachy, d-d-don't," Veronica admonishes, reading his intention as well as warning him to stay quiet. Why she cares about keeping up the ruse at this point, he doesn't know.
Vincente's hand reaches back to grab the edge of the door and pull it fully open. "Yeah, dummy. Don't. You—" Two more steps and he stops.
"Hands up," growls a deep voice. When Vincente doesn't respond his head is pushed forward, and the voice is heard again. "We can check for brains by you either putting your hands up, or having them spill out of you. Your choice."
Vincente's cocky expression is absent, replaced by one of pure rage. Logan tenses, wondering if the man's about to pull a Butch and Sundance, getting off at least one shot before he dies himself. Every muscle is drawn up, ready to jump in front of Veronica.
Thankfully, Vincente chooses option one. His hands go up, level with his head, and the person behind him relieves him of the gun.
Trevor Petturi pokes his head around Vincente, stares at them for a moment, and sighs. "How about the two of you get dressed. Then maybe you can come out here and tell me what the fuck is going on?" Vincente is yanked backward and the door swings to stop an inch from being closed.
Relief relaxes Logan's spine, and he slumps forward to grab his knees, a breathy chuckle working its way out. Veronica's body lays warm across his back and, for a second, he thinks she's hugging him, as exalted as he is that they're alive.
Her hand clamps over his mouth, cutting off the sound of his laughter. The warmth breath of her whisper tickles his ear. "Don't! J-J-Just shut up."
"Why?" he asks, so low he's not even sure she'll be able to hear him.
The press of her body leaves his back. "R-Reasons. I'll t-t-tell you l-later."
Reasons that could mean she has more information than she's sharing. But that's the paranoid side of his brain talking, the one that's kept him hidden successfully for years. More likely, she still thinks there's a chance they can keep his true identity a secret, at least from the outside world. Which only works if he keeps up the same mute sailor persona he adopted.
Their shirts are still lying near the door and she scuttles her way over to them, leaving him to follow. Until now, he'd taken care not to look directly at her out of a sense of chivalry. However, she's not shy about turning to face him as she works at pulling on her t-shirt.
First, and he hates that mind instantly goes there, he sees no sign of the tattoo she'd mentioned before. Second, seeing the lines of definition in her torso and biceps, he can now see the extra weight she's put on is muscle. It's a fetching sight in contrast to the lacy magenta bra she wears.
The effect stops short of being sexy given the large red mark on her stomach, the size of a foot. Her shaky fingers are having trouble opening the hem of her shirt to put it on. She manages and tosses his shirts at him.
Logan waits a couple of beats before following her out the door. Despite the cold and the shivering, he wants to finish the job he started. As long as there's an armed bomb no one is safe. But the freezer is growing ever colder, he's without his jacket, and an armed FBI agent has ordered him into the hallway. Fiddling with explosive devices could look very bad at this moment.
The raised voices of Veronica and Petturi can already be heard, and Logan's footsteps are lighter than they've been in hours. They have their bad guy, Veronica has trained backup, and they probably won't blow up anytime soon.
"… why the fuck didn't you tell me there was a problem?" Petturi angrily questions. The overhead lights are now on and his face shows florid under them. Veronica looks obstinate and capable as she centers her feet and returns her gun to the holster on her hip. She's got this.
"I was following orders, Trevor. You have a problem, take it up with my boss."
Logan turns returns the thermostat to its earlier temperature. He looks to Vincente, who is leaning insolently against the wall, his hands raised in front of him. The most time Logan had spent with the man was the first day of this misadventure. He had supervised Vincente and a few others in lining the freezer with visqueen and then loading the bodies. Quiet and a good worker was his assessment. With the distraction of first the corpses, and then Veronica, Logan hadn't paid any more attention to him.
Now he does. Thick body and short, stubby fingers. Late-twenties, dark blonde hair, a small scar along his chin. Remarkable eyes, a warm, glowing color reminiscent of liquid amber. Skin three shades darker than his own, though it's unclear if the pigment is due to ethnicity or the sun.
"Yeah, you bet I will. Along with a few other things," Petturi warns.
"Like what? That this was your case, and it happened right under your –" Veronica yells, stopping when Logan stomps his foot.
Her irritated expression is thrown his way, but softens when she sees it's him trying to get her attention. "L—Malachy, sorry, did you need something?"
Logan points to the freezer and holds up six fingers, reminding her of the live bombs still in there. His secondary motive is to have a reason to reclaim his jacket and his gun before Vincente realizes it's in the pocket.
"What?" She closes her eyes and gives a breathy grunt. The finger on her right hand is more swollen, her pain evident as she attempts to cradle the injured hand with the other. "Right. Good idea. Take off the jacket and hand it to Monk," she orders Vincente.
"No. Monk, don't move," Petturi orders, his gun moving back and forth to include both Logan and Vincente. "I still don't know what the hell is going on, Mars-Zare. How about, before your newly groomed boy toy makes another move, I get a little enlightenment."
Logan steps back, his hands held high. Gone is the golly-gee-wilikers politician side of Petturi that's been with them for most of this trip. Now he's the petulant brat that showed his face briefly once before, when talking about a reprimand he'd received in his job.
Veronica's working her ass off to save their lives and all Petturi can do is throw out insinuations. Something long dormant stirs up inside of Logan. It won't do anyone any favors to act on it, not against an armed federal agent. The best he can manage at this moment is a pointed glare at the bastard.
Veronica explains the situation succinctly, leaving out any history she and Logan have or his real name. She boils it down to the two of them noticing something was off with the bodies, and how a little exploration turned up the bombs. Logan listens closely to memorize all the details she gives. If he ends up on the wrong side of an interrogation table, their stories should match so Diego is left out of it.
"…so there are still six intact bombs in there. Malachy has disarmed the rest, and he's volunteering to finish the job."
"And I'm supposed to just take your word for that. For all of it."
Veronica shoots a glare at Petturi, crabbiness making her words barbed. "No, Trevor. You can go in there and finish the job yourself. But if you're going to do that, Monk'll have to be the one holding the gun on Vincente." She holds up her injured hand in illustration.
"Or, and this is just for shits and giggles, I consider the possibility the two of you are in on this. Maybe Monk is trying to finish the job you started."
Logan is starting to understand why Veronica hadn't wanted to bring anyone else into it when the ring came up missing. Things went much faster when you just followed her faithfully. None of this accomplishes either getting his gun away from Vincente, or putting them out of danger of the bombs.
Veronica sighs, exasperated. "Trevor, do you have any handcuffs?"
"What—," Petturi starts to ask.
"Give me the goddam handcuffs Trevor or I'm going to reach my hand down your throat, find your intestines and use them for rope!"
Logan was at Diego's for dinner once when the man's wife, Emilia, dropped a cast iron skillet on her foot. The kids were running around the kitchen and bumped into her, causing the mishap. Despite what turned out later to be a broken toe, she still took up the skillet and screamed threats at children while she chased them out of the room. Pain and impatience brought out a violent undertone Diego said he'd only heard when she was in labor.
Veronica's tenor sounds exactly the same as Emilia's had, making Logan smile despite the circumstances. If he'd had any trouble picturing her as a mother, he didn't now.
Pouting but compliant, Petturi plucks the silver bracelets out of his back pocket and slaps them into her hand. "Now keep an eye on this bomb-happy bastard while I frisk and cuff him," she orders
Her steps are a little stiff, common after the adrenaline of a fight wears off and you feel your injuries – something Logan remembers well. Reaching Vincente, she orders him to take off the jacket. Slowly.
Vincente does as he's told. Once the gun is out of Vincente's immediate reach, Logan relaxes a bit. He's very aware that Petturi's weapon is still pointed in his direction, so he merely uses the toe of his shoe to move the coat further away on the floor.
"Now keep your hands up, spread your legs, and lean against the wall," Veronica demands.
Vincente blinks his eyes innocently and doesn't move. "I said," Veronica starts, leaning in closer to him.
"Oh, you were talking to me?" Vincente asks, turning and spreading as she requested. "Sounded more like the kind of thing you'd say to Monk. You know, so you could better—"
Logan doesn't give a fuck that there's a bullet with his name on it in Petturi's gun. He's beyond sick of hearing these men make accusations regarding Veronica. He reaches out a hand and smacks the back of Vincente's head so hard it hits the wall and bounces back. The move is so satisfying he does it again, even harder.
Petturi and Veronica are both shouting at him, but the blood in his ears is rushing so hard their voices are indecipherable. Veronica's left hand gets inside the neck of his shirts and pulls him back, away from Vincente. The movement calms him, or maybe it's the blood now trickling into Vincente's dazed face that does it.
Logan expects Veronica to be angry, but instead she sounds wryly amused. "Knock it off, Malachy. I got this."
He looks down at her, a smarmy grin working its way onto his face. This mystery is resolved. Help is 20 minutes and a dock away. Their perp won't get a chance to warn anybody, set off the bombs himself, or escape. The urgency that had driven them all night is gone.
Short of disconnecting those six bombs, Logan has nothing left to do. Starting fights each time Veronica's honor is impugned is fun, but probably going to cause more harm than good. It wouldn't be the first time.
He throws up his hands and backs up, not making any motions that could be misconstrued by Petturi. Having made it this far, it might be nice to end the night without a bullet in his brainpan. Squish.
Veronica squats down and pats Vincente's legs, up one and down the other. Logan's eyes stay fixated on her, ready to keep Vincente in line if he acts up again. Black work boots, the laces repaired with knots. Stained light-green cargo pants, hiding a knife and sheath under one leg. Up to the front pockets, one empty, the other containing a money clip with what appears to be several hundred American dollars. Back pockets, one with a wallet, the other a bright yellow phone. A belt with another knife sheath, which is a common thing among people who work on boats. You never know when you have to cut a rope.
Vincente's t-shirt is white, faded with a smattering of holes at the shoulder seam. The design on the back is cracked and washed out, but the year and words 'Copa America', as well as the team names of Uruguay vs. Brazil are still legible. When Veronica's hands go under his shirt and across the ribs, Vincente flinches and giggles.
Petturi's gun raises in tandem with his voice. "Don't move, Vince."
It's the 'Vince' that triggers it.
The entire time Petturi's been on this ship he's been smiling and overtly friendly. By the first day he'd introduced himself to everyone and made a point of learning their name. The previous night, though, he messed up Vincente's, and was severely corrected by Diego. Now he'd done it again.
As if he's used to calling him Vince. The Copa America – Petturi had a sweatshirt from that – the team names were washed out, but I would bet my life that flags were the same. I saw the two of them talking, alone on the deck a couple days ago. That's when I saw Petturi using a yellow phone.
He tries to shut down the tangent his brain is following. All these things, they're circumstantial. Messing up a name, shirts from a game thousands of people attended, two men who have the same color phone. Random coincidences that mean nothing.
Veronica handcuffs Vincente and scoops up everything she removed from him.
"Let me see the wallet and phone," Petturi orders. When she doesn't immediately comply, he snaps, "It's still my case, Veronica. I want to know who this guy really is."
Vincente's the navigator. He's all over the ship at night. The engine room, the wheelhouse, bow watch. Distracting Diego with cribbage games, and Winston with… well, anything. Perfectly positioned to signal Petturi when it was safe to go below dec, and make sure no one saw him come back up.
She walks over to Petturi and hands him the wallet and phone, tucking the short knife into her pocket, and the long one into the back of her pants. While Petturi thumbs through the wallet, Logan takes advantage of the distraction and puts on his heavy jacket, the substantial weight of the pistol in his pocket a comfort.
He waits, keeping a wary eye on Vincente, handcuffed but not exactly rendered helpless.
Petturi holsters his gun and tucks the wallet into one back pocket, from the other pulling out a black phone and stashing Vincente's yellow one in its place. "So Veronica, your boss wanted me left out of all this. I guess we'll see what mine has to say about that," he sneers.
Veronica lips twitch when she looks at him, and Logan remembers what she said about Petturi's phone and email being blocked. She points her thumb toward the freezer and starts backing in that direction. "Go ahead and call him Trevor. But in the meantime Malachy and I will finish with the bombs."
She looks like she did the time Keith Mars caught them making out, with Logan's hand up her shirt – three parts wild for escape, one part trying to keep from cracking up. At the time Logan had shared her humor and found it even funnier when Keith forced that awkward dinner on them the next night.
This time he feels sick. The last bit has fallen into place. Trevor was using a yellow phone the other day, and now he has a black one. He could have two phones, granted, but a hunch tells Logan there's only one yellow phone on this damn ship, and was just passed back from Vincente to Petturi.
"Neither of you are touching another fucking thing, Veronica." Petturi, frustrated, hits a few more buttons, his first call not having gone through. "This isn't amateur hour, and I don't trust him any more than I do you. Stay right here and wait for the pros."
As Veronica opens her mouth in protest, the boat shudders to a stop - they've pulled into port a few minutes earlier than estimated. In moments this boat will be flooded with agents, everyone not carrying a badge put into shackles. Including Logan himself.
Petturi passes by him and grabs the bit of chain linking Vincente's handcuffs. He roughly yanks his prisoner off the wall and pushes him past Logan and toward the stairs. They're going to get off the ship.
Don't do this. Don't do this. Don't do this.
Hunches. Veronica talked to him about them once, years ago. That absolute gut instinct you're right, even when a thousand reasons indicate otherwise. Logan thought he understood. But nothing he's ever experienced came close to what he's feeling right now.
That yellow phone holds the number that can be used to send a signal to thirty-two pagers. Pagers connected to thirty-two bombs, six of which are still active. Petturi fucking knows it because he's a part of it.
Whatever the original objective was, it's ruined. But if Petturi gets off this boat, with that phone in his pocket, the remaining live bombs are going to be activated. Then not only are all the bodies and the rest of the fuel in those canisters disappearing into the ether, so are any crew members or FBI agents nearby. Including he and Veronica.
Veronica catches his eye, all amusement gone. She's irritated and tired, pale from a long stressful night and likely pain from her injuries. There's worry in the way her brows are drawn together, but no trace of suspicion in her face. He's alone in this, with no time to explain things to her.
You're guessing, and you're wrong. Don't fucking do this!
The pistol is cold in Logan's hand. A heavy, sure mass of righteousness that he points at Petturi's back.
His voice comes out slightly shaky, but full of conviction. "Trust that if you take one more step, I'll have no problem shooting you."
The interrogation room was cold, and stark. The cell isn't much better. Larger than Logan's berth on the ship by half, and better appointed with a toilet and sink, but lacking in any decoration. The blue jumpsuit he's wearing doesn't offer enough warmth, nor does the thin blanket on the bed.
It didn't matter when he was sleeping, but now that he's awake boredom and anxiety are making him too aware of everything. Like how each of the tiles in the ceiling have 48 pinprick-sized holes. How he can hear the toilet above him flush, but no amount of yelling gets an audible response. How his arm aches under the bandage placed there, and the dried blood that has seeped through is shaped like the silhouette of a cat's head.
If he knew the time, or what day it was, this might be easier to take. But he hasn't seen a window or a clock since he entered this building and has no idea how long he slept. Even the meals don't seem to be following any order, scrambled eggs for one and French toast for the next. The brief human contact he's had since waking up, through the small slot in his door where the trays come and go, were one-sided. His questions went unanswered and worse, unacknowledged.
Not that it had gone much better when they'd crowded him into that white-walled room four agents. His demands for a lawyer were brushed off, as well his questions about Vincente, Petturi, and Veronica. The one phone call they'd granted him, right before they led him in here, had gone to Eva's voicemail.
The French toast he devoured hours ago, and now he's as hungry for food as he is answers. When he finally gets that lawyer, his list of complaints will read bitchier than 'The Catcher in the Rye'. If he gets that lawyer, he amends. Shooting an FBI agent might guarantee he'll be entombed in this crypt forever, no matter how big of a lying, scheming bastard that FBI agent might be.
Logan resigns himself to trying to get rid of his pent up energy by using the floor space for reps of push-ups, sit-ups, squats. When that gets boring he switches to kickboxing. In the middle of a punch, a buzzer sounds and his door opens, bringing him instinctively into a fighter's stance. No matter what, someone is letting him out of this room right fucking now.
Veronica walks in with In-N-Out bags in one hand and a cell phone in the other. Of course her finger splint doesn't deter her from taking his picture. Her smile teases as she affects an accent that drips with southern flair. "My daddy always said you'd end up wearing those prison blues."
A/N: Your feedback has been so kind and generous during this story. Know that each comment has been a kick in the ass I've dearly needed to keep going. And we're not done yet so I'm passing around the metaphorical hat again. Please, give what you can.
A/N: To nevertothethird and my sister - thank you for saving me from tripping multiple times, both over grammar and my own plot. I would not only be lost without either you, I would still think N'Sync had an H at the end.
A/N: For those who care, the song is Angels and Fuselage by The Drive-By Truckers. I don't love it but the lyrics were fitting.