Chapter 1: Chapter 1
A bomb was in her car, Veronica realized, her stomach coiling as her world tilted on its axis, her mind flashing back to Penn getting in the Hyundai with his backpack. Her eyes snapped to the nightstand. 4:59. She ran to the window.
Thrown back, her body bounced onto the bed as shreds of glass and debris showered down upon her in a cloud of smoke, covering her pristine wedding dress while her mind filled with one unbearable thought.
Logan was in the car.
Her husband was—
Her body started to shake.
Logan? Where was he? Veronica wondered as her gaze wandered around the bedroom. The shreds of glass suddenly floated up into the air and altered back into a whole windowpane, setting the room in pre-bomb order.
"Veronica, wake up."
Her eyes snapped open, right up into Logan's concerned, brown gaze. She sighed in relief.
"Same dream, huh?" Logan asked, the corner of his mouth lifting into a soft smile, he leaned over her as she rubbed her still tired eyes.
"More like a nightmarish memory that refuses to be buried," Veronica replied in a weary tone as she sat up. She glanced toward the early morning sun filtering through the blinds of her father's guest bedroom. It was the start of another day closer to their one-year wedding anniversary— and one-year since she had almost lost Logan due to her own stupidity. Thank God Logan had discovered the backpack with the bomb and jumped out of the vehicle with seconds to spare, suffering only a few cracked rib and some bruises. "Was I mumbling and thrashing my head back and forth again?" she asked
Logan nodded and gave her a gentle peck on the lips. "But at least you wake up to my handsome face every time, right?" he said lightly.
She rolled her eyes as the side of her mouth corked up and she flung a pillow at him. "Why aren't you having these recurring dreams?"
"I'm just lucky, I guess." Logan grinned as he leapt from the bed. But when he spoke again, his voice was somber. "Do you think your sessions with Jane are helping any?"
"A little." Veronica shrugged. "She hasn't said anything I didn't already know— that the anniversary is less than a six weeks away and Epner's trial's soon after, you know." She flipped back the comforter and got out of bed. "But it's good to have some professional insight," she admitted. After the car bomb, Veronica had finally let down her guard and opened the door to therapy. At first, she'd allowed Logan to do most of the unloading in their joint sessions. As he talked about his past and present demons, Veronica realized that the new and improved Logan was always a work in progress.
Of course, this great insight into her husband's psyche was nothing new, but it'd made her feel like shit. She had a psychology degree for God's sake, but she'd belittled Logan's decision to seek help. And what made it worse was that she was protecting her own set of demons by refusing to welcome the new and improved Logan with opened arms.
Her demons were a part of her. They made her feel stronger like some understanding and agreeable pals who always had her back. Why would she want to get rid of them? They had made her a better detective, or so she thought. Until one moment of incompetence had almost taken what mattered to her most.
"You know, we can always change that," Logan said as he pulled a gray t-shirt over his head. "The anniversary? Our anniversary? We can renew our vows on a different date and omit last year from existence." He waved his hand from left to right to left as if wiping a slate clean. "I mean, we didn't exactly recite vows our first go around."
Veronica tilted her head to the side and sighed. "If you want to do that, we could do it. You are the one who almost died, after all."
Logan nodded like he expected that reply. "But you wouldn't?"
"I just don't want the past to dictate our future," she countered. "If we renewed our vows, I wouldn't want to have a quickie at city hall again, but that would cost a pretty penny and we need to get outta here." She flapped her arms and looked around the guest bedroom, the room inside her father's house. They'd moved in with Keith shortly after Logan was released from the hospital. A bomb-gutted apartment was no place to recover and heal according to her old man. He wouldn't take no for an answer.
Don't get her wrong, she was very grateful for her dad's warm and loving hospitality, but sharing a living space with a father, a husband, and Pony was starting to feel cramped. She wasn't a teenager anymore. She and Logan needed their own space, their own home.
Logan lifted a brow. "Veronica, you do know I do have a few pennies left. I didn't completely squander my trust fund and inheritance away, right?"
Veronica smiled and walked up to him. "Don't you think we should use those pennies to buy our own house?" she asked softly as her arms encircled his neck.
As if on cue, Keith's voice trailed up the stairs. "Veronica, I'm leaving early. I'll see you at the office! Have a good day, Logan!"
"You too, Keith!" Logan called out in a heartfelt tone that exemplified just how much his relationship with her father had grown and changed in the past year, into something that made Veronica extremely pleased. Even though Keith had long since accepted Logan as the man in his daughter's life—especially after said man pulled him out of a collision course with death—there had still been an uncertain wariness between them that didn't quite evaporate. But now living under the same roof, it would seem that they'd become the best of pals.
After the front door slammed shut, Veronica smiled up at her husband. "Awww, you're gonna miss him."
"Well, you know," Logan replied, "it's rather refreshing to have a father-in-law who's the polar opposite of my narcissistic dad who thought an impromptu birthday party could make up for his cold, killer heart."
"I can't argue that point," Veronica sighed before rising up on the tips of her toes to give him a quick peck on the lips. "You know we'll see my dad more at our place than we do now."
"Yeah, when he's not at Susan's or when she's here."
Veronica's face scrunched up. "Please let's not go there this early in the morning." She turned and headed to the bathroom. It wasn't that she didn't like Susan. She liked Susan very much and she was a good match for her dad. Susan was a very intelligent and very determined prosecutor who cared vehemently about carrying out justice with every case that crossed her desk.
The only problem that Veronica had with Keith's relationship with his significant other was the amount of PDA that they put on display. Yeah, she wasn't a teenager anymore, Veronica thought, but she still didn't need the visual of father making out and groping on the beach. Okay, maybe she had no room to talk given how touchy feely she had been with Logan, but they were married now and she'd like to believe that they were more discreet, at least in public.
"Maybe that's something you could bring up in your solo session with Jane today." Logan smirked as he leaned his shoulder against the doorframe of the bathroom.
Veronica rolled her eyes and waved her toothbrush at him. "That's at the bottom of a long list of issues and we both know it."
His smiled gentled and he shrugged. "Just a suggestion."
She rinsed out her mouth and changed the subject. "Can you make the house showing on Chestnut Avenue at five? I'll meet you there." Their realtor had already shown them three houses that didn't quite feel right for them. The houses had been either too big, too small, of too much money.
"Hmmm, I think I can pencil it in." Logan replied softly as he bent his head to meet her lips.
Yeah, this marriage business wasn't so bad," Veronica thought as his arms tightened around her waist and pulled her closer to his length.
"Well, it's nice that you're finally gracing this place with your presence," Keith called out to Veronica from his office at Mars Investigations.
Halfway to her own office, Veronica turned on her heel with a smile on her face and a Starbucks cup holder in hand. "It's only 9:05," she said, walking toward her father's desk. "Besides, I stopped to try this commercial brand of coffee that just popped up down the street." She shrugged as she placed one of two cups in front of her father.
"You do know that we have perfectly good Folgers here," Keith replied as he eyed the cup and then looked at his daughter. "It hasn't let us down yet."
"I wanted to see what all the fuss was about." Veronica smiled. "It's always good to try new things, right?"
Keith didn't respond as he took a sip of the simple black brew. After seemingly to savor the hot jolt of caffeine, he said, "Speaking of new, you guys are seeing that house this afternoon, aren't you?"
"Yep." Veronica nodded as she tried to determine his true feelings about her buying a new house with Logan. He had seemed to be supportive and happy for them, but thanks to the bombing she had been second guessing her instinctive people reading skills, even with her own father.
Some detective she was, right?
Shaking off the gloomy thoughts, Veronica said flippantly, "Don't worry, you can come over and play anytime with Logan."
Keith rolled his eyes and smiled. "He has turned out to be quite a good son-in-law, I have to admit, but as much as I'm gonna miss you both, I think it's time for us all to take a leap." He took a deep breath before continuing, "I've been thinking of asking Susan to move in with me. What do you think?"
"It's none of my business." Veronica shrugged. "I like Susan, so just as long as you keep the PDA to a minimum, it's all good."
"But that's my lot in life," her father said dryly, "to embarrass my darling daughter. Without it, what do I have left?"
She tilted her head and smirked.
The sudden swish of the front door opening caused both Veronica and Keith to turn their heads toward the reception area as a woman came into view. Veronica recognized the haggard face of Donna Anderson right away. It was a face that had been plastered across the national headlines for the past week with her signature grayish black ponytail and her weary, brown eyes.
Her seven-year-old son Ethan had seemingly vanished after he left school the bright afternoon of April 5th., It had been his last day of kindergarten before his spring break. The allure of no homework and playing with friends should have taken over his small world. Instead, Neptune swarmed with an endless parade of search parties and news vans while helicopters circled above Willshire Drive and the surrounding neighborhood where Ethan lived with his single mother.
Naturally in most missing children investigations, the police always look first at the parents for answers. Was there a history of abuse in the household? Were the parents under personal or financial strain? Was there any type of rift between the parents?
These questions had led Chief Langdon to zero in on Donna Anderson as the primary person of interest. She was a single mother struggling to make the rent on an apartment above her means. Her estranged-husband James was a highly respected naval lieutenant officer who'd been away on active duty in Afghanistan at the time of his son's disappearance. And according to the Neptune grapevine, there wasn't any love lost between the the couple. The lieutenant wanted to sue for sole custody of Ethan after finding out that his wife had been having an affair.
Veronica imagined the wheels spinning in Chief Langdon's head. She probably saw this single mother as a distressed woman who finally snapped after a long time of holding her head above the the rising flood of late notices and debt while dealing with a vengeful spouse.
It was a plausible theory, but very thin on actual evidence.
The only tangible piece of evidence was some grimy footage from a camera in the hallway of Neptune Elementary showing Ethan exiting the main door at the end of the day with an older female with a dark ponytail. The individual never faced the camera. There were also no reliable witnesses who remembered seeing the face of the possible suspect. Ethan's teacher had been busy with other students and just assumed the dark-haired woman was his mother.
The only problem was that Donna had a solid alibi. She had been waitressing at Dave's Diner and dozens of people had seen her there. Ethan's maternal grandmother had agreed to watch him after school, but when she'd arrived to pick him up, the little boy was already gone.
Without a trace.
"What can we do you for, Mrs. Anderson?" Keith asked after a moment, standing from the chair behind his desk.
"I need your help," the woman replied firmly. "I want to find my son before it's too late."
"Donna thinks that her in-laws had something to do with Ethan's disappearance and that they're getting ready to flee the country to Russia. I guess they have friends there," Veronica told her therapist later that afternoon. "But according to the chief of police, there isn't any evidence leading down that path. She's still focused on that blurred footage and has her mind set on proving that Donna was behind it."
Jane adjusted her eyeglasses on her nose and asked, "What do you think?"
"Well, there are obvious avenues that the police have ignored." Veronica shrugged. "My father agreed to take the case."
Her therapist raised a brow. "You aren't working on the case?"
She shook her head. "I already have three cases on my plate."
"Let me guess, catching two cheating husbands and one cheating wife in the act?"
"Close." Veronica sighed. "There's one cheating husband, one cheating wife, and tracking down one long lost sister."
Jane tilted her head to the side. "And those fulfill you as a PI?"
"They help pay the bills."
Jane put down her notepad on a nearby table and leaned forward in her seat. She looked Veronica straight in the eye. "Veronica, you told me how you fought to get justice for your best friend and how that propelled you to want to seek justice for others. People come to you because they think you're a good investigator."
"Yeah, the key word here is 'good' investigator."
"You cannot keep doubting yourself, you know? It has never gotten anyone anywhere. The fact that you—and the police, I might add—missed the bomb is one error that," Jane paused as if she was carefully contemplating her next words, "that 'shouldn't derail you in a job that you've been very savvy at for many years.' Those are the words from your husband, remember?"
Yeah, Veronica remembered that joint session. She only wished she held the same confidence in herself that Logan seemed to hold for her. She looked down at her hands and then back up. "But that one error almost cost me my husband on our wedding day," she said fiercely. "I just can't move past it." She had this conversation with Jane several times, but this was the first time that she actually wanted, to get past this roadblock. "I just can't make that type of error again, especially with a case where a little boy's life could be at risk."
"And what happens if that little boy's life is at risk and you could've done something to help him?"
Veronica took in a deep breath and sat back.
Logan stepped into Dave's Diner and scanned the tables, trying to locate his lunch companion whom had texted him to meet up here. His prior meeting with his new recruited security team for Congressman Maloof had made him famished.
When the congressman had come to him offering a permanent position as head of security, Logan knew that he couldn't do it single-handed since he was still technically on extended leave from the Navy. And it was more realistic to have a team looking after a high profile politician than just one man, no matter how capable and strapping that one man was, Logan smirked to himself.
Plus, he loved being The Boss.
For a guy who'd loved having things, particularly money, just handed to him growing up, it surprised even Logan how much he liked working and having a purpose, first with the Navy and now with being Head of Security for a Congressman.
Logan spotted his lunch companion and strolled over to his booth by the corner window. "Uh, interesting change in venue." He raised both his brows and smirked. "I thought we had our hearts set on pizza."
"I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone," Keith replied. "I'm just double checking a new client's alibi on the day her son went missing."
Logan slid into the opposite booth from his father-in-law. "Donna Anderson's your new client?"
"Veronica told you?"
Logan shook his head. "I'm just connecting the dots. There's only one woman in Neptune that works here with a missing son. I don't suppose Veronica's working the case, too?"
"What do you think?" Keith asked with a morose tone.
Veronica had avoided all types of risky cases this past year, but Logan knew it just wasn't like her. He actually missed the days of Veronica brushing off his concern for her safely with a witty gripe or two. Both of them already had a shit load of baggage to wade through to get to some form of happiness without a diabolical pizza guy and a car bomb literally exploding their lives into a million more pieces. God, they were married less than hour before he'd almost been blown to smithereens.
Therapy helped him work through that added trauma, but there were still many restless nights since when dark doubts crept into his head. What if he wasn't meant to have a good life? What if Veronica had been initially right not to accept his proposal? What if his life was just fucking cursed?
"What can I get you guys today?" The perky voice of a waitress pulled him back to the present.
Logan and Keith both ordered cheeseburgers and fries before Keith found an opening to ask her a few questions about the Anderson woman and then asked to speak to the manager. During the exchange, Logan sat there and took a long sip of ice water, trying to cool his thoughts.
After the waitress walked away, Keith looked over at him and narrowed his eyes. "Are you all right, Logan? You look a bit peaked."
"I was just parched," he replied, placing the glass back down. Before his father-in-law could question him further, he decided to change the subject. He reached into his coat pocket and brought out a folded piece of paper. He slid it across to the other man. "Here's the handwritten guest list you requested, but you do realize Veronica will catch on eventually without electronic evidence don't you?" He gave a half-smile.
"Oh, don't I know it." Keith laughed. "But keeping one step ahead of my daughter is half the fun in throwing this party."
Somehow Keith had gotten into his head that the newlyweds needed to have a surprise anniversary/reception party since they'd never celebrated after the ceremony last year. The later events of that day had only resonated to him how much they needed to start anew and find a source of joy.
The party was going to be three days before Logan and Veronica's actual anniversary. And according to Keith, this would give them a better day to look back upon and remember. He'd let Logan in on the surprise to help with the planning and said it would give them some bonding time.
"Keith," Logan said now, "this is an awfully nice gesture, but Veronica might not be particularly fond of it, you know." Her words from this morning came back to him. "I just don't want the past to dictate our future."
His father-in-law shrugged. Then, I'll take all the blame." He sighed. "Besides, Logan, I'm not just doing this for Veronica. I'm doing it for the both of you. In all honesty, I don't think I've shown just how grateful I am to you for saving my life all those years ago."
"It's not a debt that needs to be paid."
"I know, I know," Keith replied, holding up a hand, "but I want to. Plus, you are part of my family now."
Logan simply smiled, realizing that he actually belonged in a family that he could be proud of for the first time in his life.
Veronica pulled up to the quaint stone ranch on Chestnut Avenue. The rustic style house set off images of a mountain hideaway cabin and cozy nights curled up by a crackling fire. Her lips curved up softly as she spotted Logan leaning against the wall next to the garage, appearing to be occupied by his phone.
His head popped up as she slammed her car door shut. "You made it," he called out, stepping forward to meet her halfway up the drive.
It was only 4:55, but she was cutting it close. The good news was that she got some hard proof for a client. "I made it," Veronica said walking up to her husband, "but not before getting some great pics of an unfaithful husband literally with his pants down, trying out a new exercise technique with his personal trainer."
"That's my girl," Logan said before smacking his lips against hers. "You always get your man."
She smiled slightly. "How was your day?"
"Very productive, actually," Logan replied as they turned toward the porch to wait for the realtor. "I met up with your dad at Dave's Diner."
"Really?" Veronica asked with a note of surprise. "What were doing over there? The Congressman's office is on the opposite side of town."
"Maloof had a meeting nearby." Logan shrugged. "Anyway, your dad told me about the Donna Anderson case."
"Yeah, he went to the diner to check out her alibi."
"Well, the manager backed it up. In fact, she worked a double that day because another waitress was out sick."
Veronica nodded. "Not shocked. I mean, why would Donna come to us if we could so easily catch her in a lie?"
Her husband's mouth slowly broke out in a grin.
"You said 'us' and 'we.'"
Damn, he knew her too well, Veronica thought and then replied, "And you want to know if my spidey senses are tingling?
"Are they all tingling?" Logan made a jazz hands gesture.
Her arms flapped up and down at her sides as she sighed. "Of course, they are. A child's missing and I can't stop my mind or— my heart for that matter— from wondering what happened to him."
"Does that mean you're gonna work the case?"
"Sorry I'm late." Their realtor Lisa ran up to the porch. "I got held up at another house."
And with that, all talk about her investigating future creased for the moment as they stepped into the ranch.
At least she had a good feeling about this home.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Big thanks to Sarah and Joey for their beta help.
"So... you guys like the house?" Wallace asked Veronica as he took an empty sippy cup from his toddler's chubby little hands. Noah then climbed onto his father's lap.
It was Friday night and dinner at Wallace and Shae's seemed like a perfect end to a head spinning week. Logan was on his way after a long day at a political rally where Maloof had given a speech. As they waited for him, Veronica and Wallace chatted in the living room while Shae took a call from her father in the bedroom.
"Well, it has two bedrooms, a newly renovated kitchen, and a pool," she replied, sitting down at the opposite end of the sofa. It had been only twenty-four hours since the house showing, but Veronica and Logan agreed that the ranch seemed to be a right fit for them and in a reasonable price range. They were set to make an offer.
Wallace smiled. "Two bedrooms, huh? Do I hear the pitter-patter of little feet, V?"
"Only if the pitter-patter is Pony's paws. Come to think of it, Pony could use her own room." Veronica tapped her chin with her index finger.
Her friend shook his head and laughed. "Defensive humor will only get you so far, Veronica. It's just a matter of time for you, though."
She sighed. "You seem so sure about that."
Before Wallace could respond, Noah cupped his father's cheeks and looked him straight in the eye. "Wanna more juice, Daddy."
"Okay, little dude," Wallace replied as he gently removed Noah's hands from his face. "Feels like we need to wash someone's sticky fingers too."
The little boy giggled.
"We'll be right back," Wallace told Veronica as he stood up with his son perched on his hip.
As she watched the daddy and toddler duo stroll to the kitchen, she was struck right smack dab in the heart. No, it wasn't the pitter-patter of a biological clock, but it was a maternal pull, a pull to help another little boy.
And it wasn't the first time.
She'd asked her dad several times for updates on the Ethan Anderson case. So far, Keith had made little progress. He'd gone to talk to Ethan's paternal grandparents and of course, they'd stated Donna's claim that they planned on fleeing to Russia with her son was crazy and absurd. In fact, they had said that their friends moved back to the states six months ago.
Veronica glanced down at her phone. It was only 6:35. Damn, she wanted to know what Lieutenant James Anderson had to say. He was supposed to meet her dad at Java the Hut at seven. Apparently, it was the only time the distraught father could come and talk to a PI trying to find his missing son. After all, isn't that how all distraught parents "fit in the time" for their missing child? There had to be more to that story if—.
"Where are the guys?"
Snapping out of her mental diatribe, Veronica whipped her head around as Shae came into the room.
"Sorry, did I startle you?" the other woman slightly smiled, sitting down on the sofa.
"Mind on a case," Veronica simply said and then asked Shae about her call. "How's your dad? He lives in Chicago, right?" It was three years since Shae and Wallace had said their big "I dos." Wallace had only known Shae three months before popping the question. At that time, the determined spinster in Veronica had thought that was way too fast, but the more she'd gotten to know the easygoing attorney, the less she'd objected. Not only did her best friend find a lifelong partner, but she found a good friend.
But she hadn't always been a good friend to Wallace and Shae, Veronica realized. That had become abundantly clear after the bombing and during Logan's hospitalization. With every visit and shoulder to lean on, Veronica was reminded of every time she'd treated their get-togethers like a chore to be done.
Shae nodded. "Yeah, they're having one of those freak April snowstorms and he just fell on some black ice. Of course, you know, he refuses to go get checked out even though he hit his head. I swear men can be so stubborn and bullheaded when it comes to seeing a doctor no matter their age."
"True, although not all men. Logan has become a health nut, especially since joining the Navy. It's kinda refreshing"
The doorbell jingled.
Veronica smirked. "Speaking of the devil himself." As she stood up, her phone rang in her hand. Yeah, it was her dad. Something must have happened. She looked over at Shae who was already headed toward the door.
Veronica answered the phone. "Hey, let me guess, Lieutenant Anderson's gonna be a no show."
"Nope," Keith replied, "That would be me. I'm gonna be the no show."
"What—what does that mean?" Veronica looked at the time again. "Dad, he's meeting you in ten minutes."
"I'm on my way to the Mexican border. Cliff wants me to track down a bail jumper."
"Now? Tonight?" She scoffed and then the light bulb switched on brightly in her head. "Wait, you want me to go in your place. This is your way of forcing me to take the case!"
"Honey, who are ya trying to kid?" Keith replied softly, the fatherly affection ever so evident in his voice. "We both know you're already on this case. I'm just giving you one last push. Now you only have nine minutes to get to The Hut. Chop-chop," he said before the line went dead.
Shit, he hung up. There were two options, Veronica thought. She could call her father back and protest like a scared child. Or she could take action and find a missing child.
Cheerful voices drifted into the room as Veronica grabbed her purse off the coffee table. When she turned around, the corners of her mouth tugged up at the sight of Noah sitting atop Logan's shoulders. Wallace and Shae walked on either side of them.
"Logo, you funny." Noah chortled, trying to lean over the top of Logan's head to see his face
"I get that all the time," Logan said, his gaze falling on his wife, "Just ask your Auntie Veronica."
She gave a nod. "Yeah, Noah, your Uncle Logo's the Superman of Funny. He makes me giggle all day every day."
Logan smirked at her before lowering the toddler to the floor.
"How about we order Chinese now?" Shae asked the group.
"Sounds good to me." Wallace glanced at Veronica's purse over her shoulder "Going somewhere, V?".
"I'm sorry, my dad decided to take the role of bounty hunter tonight. I have to go talk to the lieutenant"
Logan lifted both his brows. "Do you need some backup and my naval expertise?"
Veronica gave a small smile. "Maybe later. I wanna first have a one-on-one chat with this guy."
"Does this mean you're fully back in the PI game?" Wallace asked with a hopeful tinge in his voice.
Without really thinking it over, Veronica replied, "Yeah, for now."
Veronica found the lieutenant as soon as she walked into The Hut. Even in his civilian jeans and button-down shirt, he wore the same passive expression on his face that he had in the Navy photo that was plastered all over social media and the news. His thumb drummed on the plush armrest of his chair like he wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else, proving that he wasn't as passive as he tried to appear.
"Hey, Lieutenant Anderson? Sorry, I'm late," she said when she reached his side. "I'm Veronica Mars."
He looked up at her coolly. "I know who you are. I thought I was meeting your father."
"An emergency came up. He apologizes." Veronica took a seat in the armchair across from the lieutenant.
"Glad to hear that my son is a priority."
Well, wasn't this chat starting off just right? Veronica thought wryly. For a guy who practically had to be lassoed to come to talk about his missing child, he sure knew how to play the wronged party. "That's not what—.
"Look," Lieutenant Anderson cut her off, "The only reason I agreed to meet is to make it perfectly clear that this is a sham. My wife hired you as a distraction, to make herself look innocent."
"And you're sure she's not?"
He scoffed. "If she didn't harm Ethan, she knows exactly who did."
"Who would that be?"
"Her boy toy," Anderson bit off as if he tasted a rotten lemon. "Joey Balotelli is a criminal. All it would take a simple background check."
"What type of criminal?"
The lieutenant popped out of his seat quicker than one of those Jack-In-the-Box toys. "Does it matter? I'm not about to do your job for you, Ms. Mars. All I know is that I'm not involved in Ethan's disappearance and neither are my parents. I would appreciate if you'd leave them out of this farce of an investigation." He started to step away.
Veronica jumped out of her seat. "Wait, lieutenant, how can you be positive that Ethan was harmed?"
He stopped in his tracks and for the first time, his arrogant shell cracked. "I'm not," he simply replied before walking away.
Veronica stared after him for a long minute. She wasn't sure what puzzle the lieutenant was trying to put together, but many of the pieces just did not fit.
She followed him out the door.
Logan helped Wallace clear the table of dirty dishes and empty Chinese food containers while Shae read a second bedtime story to Noah upstairs. Logan gave the kid credit on how he used his sad puppy dog eyes and fixed pout to have his mother read two books to him before bed. "How long did it take Noah to learn how to manipulate you guys?" He asked with a grin as he took two bottles of Budweiser out of the Fennel's refrigerator.
Over the last few years, Logan had stopped thinking of Wallace as Veronica's BFF and started thinking of the guy as his own comrade. They'd grown beyond their high school and college personas that had them on opposite sides more often times than not. Now they were both just hardworking men, trying to maintain respect in the grownup world.
Wallace opened his mouth as if to argue, but then he smiled. "I think the little dude runs this household now," he said, putting the last plate in the dishwasher and closed it. "I don't know when it happened, but he's becoming a whole person with his own unique personality." He laughed, grabbing a beer from Logan. "Watch, you and Veronica will know sooner or later."
"I don't know about that, man," Logan said before taking a swig. "I don't think we're ready for the baby carriage just yet. I'm just glad to see her back doing what she does best, you know, at least for now." He wasn't an idiot: he knew Keith had to do some clever maneuvering to get Veronica to go all in on this case. All Logan cared about, though, was seeing the fiery determination that he loves so much back in her eyes.
At least it was one more positive to add to the list. The first being that they were on the verge of buying their very first house. Maybe his life wasn't one fucking gigantic curse after all. Maybe, just maybe his life with Veronica was finally on an upswing, Logan thought as he followed Wallace into the living room to watch the last five minutes of one of the final games of the season between the Lakers and the Knicks.
Logan wasn't that big of a basketball fan, but he made a friendly bet with Wallace. And of course, when money was involved everything became more thrilling. The leading score bounced back and forth between the two teams, keeping the game pumping with anxious anticipation in the final two minutes.
"No, no, no block him!" he hollered at the screen the thrill quickly fading as Antetokounmpo made a jump shot at the buzzer, giving the Lakers the win by three points.
"Yes! Now that's what I'm talking about!" Wallace chuckled. "Okay, man, pay up."
So maybe it wasn't a big upswing, Logan amended his thoughts dryly as he handed over fifty bucks.
"Poor baby, you lost fifty bucks," Veronica said in a feigned sympathetic tone as she climbed into bed later that night. "I always knew that Wallace would be a bad influence on you." She smiled and shook her head.
Logan snickered, pulling back the comforter on his side and crawled in next to her. "So tell me again how badly your meeting went with Anderson to make me feel better, heal my wounded ego?" He adjusted his pillow against the headboard and sat back.
Veronica gave a quick smirk, then turned serious. "Like I said, it wasn't necessarily bad, but it was odd. For a lieutenant in the Navy, he really wasn't acting clever in his strategy. God, I mean, he didn't even act concerned about Ethan or show hope that his child could be alive. His only objective was to point fingers. He seems too sure that Joey Balotelli's involved"
As soon as Veronica had come home, she'd done a quick background check on Balotelli. Yeah, the guy was indeed a criminal, but it wasn't as simple as Anderson probably intended it to sound. Balotelli had done time for manslaughter when he was just twenty-two. Apparently, he had a change of heart about holding up a convenient store and a gun accidently went off in the midst of an argument with his accomplice. He'd served two years, but it would appear he'd become a productive member of society as a paramedic for the past fifteen years.
Still, Balotelli needed to be checked out more thoroughly. What exactly was his relationship with Donna Anderson, Veronica wondered, and where did their relationship stand at the time of Ethan's disappearance?"
Her mind switched back to earlier that night when she'd tailed Anderson home to his apartment, which was only a couple blocks from where his estranged wife and son lived. She had an urge to stakeout and snoop, but it was so late. It would be better to go back when the lieutenant wasn't anticipating her next move. And she just knew he was anticipating her next move.
"Well, I don't have any personal experience with Anderson," Logan replied, "but I've heard that he likes to play mind games with new recruits."
"What kind of mind games?"
Logan shrugged. "Not sure, just some hazing type of things. I don't know specifics."
Her lips slowly perked up in a smile. "I don't suppose you can do some digging on the lieutenant. You did offer your naval expertise earlier."
"But I'd be risking being accused of disloyalty to my fellow officer," he argued, then his mouth turned up in a mischievous smile. "But I'll do it."
"I had no doubt," she said, leaning over closer to him and capturing her mouth with his in a soft kiss that quickly turned feverish. His arms wrapped around her back, pulling her on top of him as her tongue slipped between his teeth and—.
Her phone rang.
They pulled apart, letting out mingled sighs.
"It could be my dad." Veronica said regretfully, moving back over to her side of the bed.
"Well, that's a mood changer," Logan replied dryly.
She gave him apologetic look as she snatched her phone off the nightstand. Her eyes widened as she glanced down at the screen. "It's Wallace."
Logan sat up straighter and narrowed his eyes.
She accepted the call. "Hey Wallace, what's up?"
"Veronica, I hate to bother you this late at night," he replied in a rushed and troubled voice.
"It's okay, Wallace, just spill."
Her friend sighed. "Shae's dad collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. We're taking, uh, the next flight out to Chicago. My mom is on a business trip until Tuesday and we need someone to watch Noah. I hate, uh, to ask, but can you—?"
Veronica cut in and simply replied, "We'll be right over."
"What happened?" Logan asked when she hung up. "Where are we going?"
"We're on babysitting duty."