Kira started the morning in a bad mood, resentful that the campus coffee place was renovating that week, which meant having to haul herself to the cafeteria, which was about twenty minutes out of her way. This meant she was already late for practice by the time the blond stepped into place beside her.
"You're Kira, right?"
Kira gave her a look, but couldn't spare her the courtesy of slowing down. Blond hair, shorter even than Kira, cute green jacket and a very no-nonsense expression. She didn't look like anyone Kira recognized from her classes, but two of them were lectures and it was hard to pay attention to anyone not in her immediate study group.
"Yeah, I'm Kira. And you are..?"
"Veronica." Veronica matched her stride perfectly.
"Do we know each other?"
"We don't. Well, you don't know me. But I sort of know you. You're lead singer in Seven Spooky Steps."
Oh, a groupie. Kira refrained from rolling her eyes. "Yeah, I am."
"You guys did that show at the Hearst Autumnal Fest last month, you were really good. I like that you play guitar, too. Very cool."
Cafeteria coffee wasn't good enough for this conversation to really be doing anything for her. "Thanks. I'm kind of late for practice now, actually, so..."
"Oh, that's okay," Veronica said dismissively, "I just have a few questions. I'll be done by the time you get there."
"Yeah, questions. For instance, has Damian Hoburn showed up for practice at all in the past week?"
He hadn't. That worried Kira a little. She gave her companion a sideways look. "Are you a groupie or a stalker?"
Veronica's lips pressed in a tight smile. "Neither."
"No, he's been suspiciously absent, as a matter of fact. But he's usually like this when he gets a new girlfriend. First is the week in bed, then he brings her to practice to show off, as if any girl is ever seriously into a bassist."
"Not even John Entwhistle?"
Kira smirked a little. "I guess that depends on how much you like mustaches. You're not the new girl, are you?"
"No, I have a boyfriend. His musical repertoire is pretty much limited to that 'Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit' song, but he's all mine."
Kira thought briefly that this mystery boyfriend and Conner would get along really well.
"Do you know a Becky Lancaster?"
The name sounded familiar. "Black hair, glasses?"
"That'd be her."
"That's Damian's girlfriend. Or ex-girlfriend, I'm not sure."
"Ex," Veronica said decisively.
"Whatever. Damian doesn't really talk about his love life when he's not parading it around the garage." Becky had been around the garage a lot for awhile, more than the other girls, but Kira hadn't seen her in awhile. Of course, of all of the guys in the band, she liked Damian and his drama-queen tendencies the least. "Sometimes he shows up and wants to play Alanis Morissette covers, but that's about it."
"Covers, huh? You played all original stuff at the HAlF last month," she said.
"Covers are just for skill practice. Like chords and scales, but more fun. The stuff we do in shows is all ours, same as on the CD."
"Yeah. About the CD."
Kira sighed laboriously and stopped in her tracks. She could see the garage Cooper was renting for them, all of twenty feet away, but she knew she wasn't going to make it any time soon. "Okay, seriously, what is this about?"
Veronica's tone, which had been friendly enough so far, dropped to a more serious volume. "I represent Becky Lancaster. She says she wrote a poem for Damian on their anniversary, he made it into a Seven Spooky Steps song, one that's on your CD, and dumped her shortly thereafter. She gets no credit and no proceeds."
Kira wanted to point out that the band barely got proceeds from the self-released album, but something was niggling uncomfortably in her brain. She knew the song. "'Better With You Than Without You'?" she said.
She'd said the right thing. Veronica's smile was tight and humorless. "That's the one."
"Dammit," Kira said passionately. "I write all the songs, you know?"
"I did, actually. Read the liner notes."
"Except that one. Damian came to me with the lyrics and I liked them so much, I thought we should use them. I should've known. It didn't really sound like him, he's too much of a knucklehead, but I thought he was branching out." She felt the overwhelming urge to punch something. She kicked at the ground instead. "Damn. I should have known."
"So he's never written a song of his own before?"
"If he has, he's never shared it with us."
"I'm sorry, but did you say you represent Becky?"
"She hired me for my services, yes."
Services? Kira took in the petite blonde, who had the looks of a pixie but the tenacity of a bulldog. "As what?"
"Private... how old are you?"
"Nineteen, but that's beside the point. I do a damn good job. Becky wanted me to prove that Damian Hoburn did not write the lyrics to the song that are credited to him on the album."
"Well, I hope I helped... are you really a private investigator?"
Veronica smiled. "Let's hope you never have to find out. But if you do, give me a call. Veronica Mars." She stuck out a hand. "It was nice meeting you."
Kira felt a little bowled over. "Um, sure, same here. Good luck with Becky's thing."
"Good luck with practice. You guys really are good, by the way. You especially."
Veronica waggled her fingers in a wave. "Adios." Then she turned on her heel and marched back into the heart of campus, Kira staring after her, completely baffled. She thought about mentioning the encounter to the band, but if it was true, she wanted Damian to get whatever was coming to him. She thought about mentioning it to Conner, but she knew that would land her with a week of bad noir slang and 'private dick' jokes. So she decided to keep it to herself for a little while.
But as she crossed the last twenty feet to their rehearsal space, ridiculously late and knowing she'd probably pay for it, she knew things at Hearst had just gotten a little more interesting.