I got bored and wrote this. It most likely makes no sense to anybody but me, but I had fun with it. Ignore it if you want.
Title: "The Last Laugh"
Author: Jacqui, wily_one24
Pairing/Characters: Veronica, Keith, Cliff.
Word Count: 1,783 (ish).
Summary: A 'discussion' between the three.
Spoilers: Set after 3.14 “Mars Bars”, so yeah, SPOILERS AHOY. Do not read if you have not seen.
Disclaimer: Not owned by me. Unfortunately.
Also, I am not a lawyer, suspend disbelief!
THE LAST LAUGH
He pinched the little space on the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. He could feel his toes curling in annoyance in their new patent leather casing. The edge of the table bit into his stomach as he leaned forward.
Counting to ten just didn’t work.
“You can’t just mess around with this.” He generally liked to pride himself on his cool professionalism in all circumstances, but even he could hear the frustration boiling up in his own voice. “Just tell me.”
Veronica bit the sides of her cheek and he could just see her brain working.
“I really don’t think I should talk without my attorney present.”
She leaned back in her own chair and the cuffs around her wrist rattled as she tapped her fingers on the desk.
Maybe he should try counting to a hundred.
“You don’t have an attorney, Veronica.”
They stared at each other across the interrogation table and she raised her left eyebrow as if to make her point. At least, he assumed it was to make her point. He began to run through the list of half decent public defenders available on the register and the time it would take to get one.
“Well.” A deep voice boomed from the doorway. “This is awkward. I had hoped you two would give me at least a month before this happened.”
Keith’s jaw ground down.
“Cliff!” Veronica sat up straight with a smile. “You took your time.”
“Cliff.” Keith bit down on the growl he felt forming. “You’re not her lawyer anymore.”
The cringe on Cliff’s face really didn’t make the growing migraine pumping behind Keith’s right eye calm any.
“Well, see…” There was a slight reluctance in the man’s voice as he strode into the room. “That’s where you’re wrong, Keith. You of all people should know that my contract as the legal representative of Mars Investigations is paid up for the rest of the financial year.”
Relief flooded his posture.
“Oh, well, in that case, Mars Investigations doesn’t exist anymore.”
Cliff’s briefcase was hoisted onto the table with a little heft, the cushion of the fake leather puffing breath out as it landed. He watched as Cliff expertly flicked the latches and flipped open the lid. From the slightly embarrassed blush rising on Veronica’s cheeks and the way she wouldn’t look him in the eyes, Keith felt his hope draining away.
“I’m afraid not.” Cliff frowned and turned to his client. “I don’t believe you’re making me tell him this.”
Veronica raised her hands in a ‘who me?’ gesture and Cliff just made a face at her in return before looking across the table. A deep breath was taken.
“When you first drew up the papers to create Mars Investigations, you named Veronica as a silent second partner, with all benefits that entailed, including all profits and windfalls. In the event of your untimely death or, say, an obvious, undeniable and very public abandonment of the company, Veronica is well within her legal rights to assume control and to use any reasonable means necessary to keep it running, including the use of existing client files and any utilities or services currently in existence and viable.”
Oh. He felt the blood draining. He’d done that. Of course, when he’d done it, it was on the assumption that being a P.I. was a highly dangerous job and she might be left with nothing if he was somehow injured. He’d even named Cliff as executor until she reached legal age.
“You’re really doing this?” He was looking straight at her, at the guilty slide of her eyes, when something hit him. Hit him hard. “No, you’re not doing this, that money is for your future. Do you understand me?”
All the secret phone calls and rustling of bank statements and little things he’d barely even processed that he’d needed to take note of as he’d taken back his role of Sheriff suddenly came into focus.
“That’s your savings and I won’t let you do this.”
Her mother had already drained her college accounts twice; she didn’t need her father’s mistakes to do it a third time.
“I’m doing this for my future.” It was the first thing she’d said since Cliff had started. “I’m keeping the office running.”
He loved his daughter, his passionate, stubborn, headstrong, bull headed, take control of everything daughter, but sometimes he wanted to strangle her.
“And how do you propose to do this and graduate college as well?” Her eyes flickered down to the table for a second and Keith felt anger rising up. “And don’t even tell me you’re thinking of quitting, because I will...”
“What?” Surprise etched across her features, added with a flicker of distaste. “No. Of course not. I’ll find a way.”
She set her jaw and he knew it was a mirror of his own.
“I know you think you can do this, Veronica, but have you thought about it? Really thought about it? You don’t have half the things you need to run a private investigation business on your own, you…” He didn’t miss the guilty glance at Cliff and the way Cliff avoided meeting his eyes. He turned on the man. “You’re helping my daughter get a gun license before her twenty first birthday?”
“I knew I should have called in sick today.” Cliff murmured. “Thanks V.”
“No problem.” She affirmed quietly.
“You hate guns.”
In that moment, he knew she was serious and there was nothing he could do to stop her. She was going to do it and he knew only too well what that meant.
“Fine.” The anger in his voice obviously wasn’t lost on either person across from him as they both winced. “That doesn’t change the fact that you’re deliberately hampering a police investigation today and…”
“Um.” Interrupted Cliff nervously. “Allegedly. Allegedly hampering…”
“You were the last one to talk to the witness before she disappeared…”
“Allegedly.” Cliff lowered his head onto his hands on the table and spoke in a reluctant, muffled voice. “Allege…”
“Just tell me where she is, Veronica.”
She just stared at him, open eyed and hiding nothing and he knew with a certainty that she would not open her mouth and he would not know the circumstances he was looking for, just like he would never find out what happened to the small vase that was supposed to be sitting on the coffee table.
“I. Don’t. Know.”
“You don’t have to answer him.” Cliff mumbled.
“Yes she does.” He insisted. “We have eye witnesses that put her with the witness less than twenty four hours ago.”
Cliff’s head jumped up from its position on the table and the look he threw her was pure warning before he turned to Keith with a little sigh of pleading.
“What my client meant to say was there is no conclusive evidence that even places her anywhere near the said witness, nor any evidence that suggests that if she had exchanged words with said person that they at all included any detail further than asking the time in passing.”
The challenge in Veronica’s words was clear and Keith knew the impossibility of the task at hand. He’d taught her himself all the ways to avoid police detection and he knew that she would leave no traces. Of course, when he had taught her, it was simply to get around Lamb, not himself.
“Just because you’ve finally learned how to unplug the laminator, doesn’t mean we won’t find any…”
“You searched the office?” Veronica’s jaw dropped. “I can’t believe you’d…”
“Hang on!” Cliff’s made a chopping motion in the middle of the table. “We’re fast heading into the dangerous territory of you, Sheriff, referring to previous alleged offenses my client has never been charged with and you, my dear and valued client, to admitting said offenses. Please keep it civil.”
Keith and Veronica turned to Cliff in the exact same moment.
“Should have called in sick.” Cliff affirmed to no one. “Where is Loretta when you need her? At least some of my clients are sane.”
Keith turned a steely, last ditch effort glare on his daughter.
“This is an official police investigation, Veronica, or have you forgotten?”
She didn’t back down.
“Like that has ever mattered before. Or have you forgotten?”
Okay, that was it; he was never buying Chunky Monkey icecream again and her next birthday present was already halved in price.
“Do you want to spend the night in the cell?”
Before she could answer and, by the look on her face it was in her best interest, Cliff chopped the middle of the table again. Vehemently.
“Miss Mars! Do you have any relevant information you would like to share with the Sheriff?”
Veronica shook her head silently.
“Sheriff Mars, are you going to officially charge my client with any offenses?”
Keith bit down on his reply, but shook his head.
“Fine.” And then Cliff shoved some papers across the desk. “I’m sure we all know which line to sign on. Make it legible, date it properly, and please let me go home before my head explodes. Thank you so very much.”
The little keys jangled in his hands as he unlocked Veronica’s cuffs and he watched in concern as she twisted her wrists free of them, gave them movement and circulation.
“Lasagna good for you, sweetie?”
Her eyes sparked up.
“I’ll make a salad!”
He kissed the top of her forehead and she dipped her knees on the way past.
“Hey Cliff.” She asked breezily. “Want to come over for dinner? Lasagna night.”
“Are you kidding?” Was the voice that carried back as they walked down the hall. “Well, as comfortable as that night sounds, no. I think I’d rather spend the night drunk in front of some reality show about overly obese people climbing walls.”
Keith sighed and buried his head in his hands. It had been a long day.
He looked up, trying to bite back on the annoyance. Deputy Sacks was, as ever, eager to please, but Keith was just a little tired of the constant ‘what do I do?’, ‘how do I do it?’ babysitting of all the deputies since he started in the office.
“What is it?”
“Um…” The nervous little moustache peeked into the room. “There’s probably some extra strength aspirin in the third drawer down in your office. The, um… previous… you know… um, Sheriff Lamb… he used it a lot.”
The words after visits from your daughter were never actually said.
Keith knew that somewhere, somehow, Donald Lamb was having the last laugh.