The flashing blue lights that suddenly strobed across Weevil’s face made his expression of surprise that much more comical to Logan, but then again, he was pretty damned drunk. Too drunk in fact, to stop himself from greeting the Deputy by saying, “Deputy, my man! C’mon up here. I’m holding a meeting of the Veronica Mars Ex-es Club.” He toasted his newfound compadre with his flask and then turned back to Weevil. “You can go now. I hereby declare this meeting of the Lilly Kane Ex-es Club permanently fucking adjourned.”
Weevil glared at him and took a step forward, but a look from the Deputy stopped him. He seethed silently, and then turned and got on his bike, following after the rest of the PCH crew who’d scattered at the first sign of the law.
“There’s just one problem,” the Deputy began.
“Then you are a very lucky man, Crockett,” Logan interrupted.
‘Crockett’ grimaced and said, “Yeah, well. I’m a lucky man with really bad vertigo, so we have to hold the meeting down here.”
That seemed like a perfectly reasonable request, so Logan bounced down from the railing.
“Are we drinking, Deputy, um, Deputy?” he asked nonsensically, offering the flask to his newfound friend.
“Leo," the Deputy replied amiably. "And I'm thinking that you've already done my drinking for me,” but he pocketed the flask just the same. “Listen, you need to come with me.”
“Right, right,” Logan muttered. “Are you cuffing me?”
Deputy Leo had a strange, sad expression on his face; Logan couldn’t exactly put his finger on what it was.
“No,” he said quietly. “I’ll have them tow your car home.”
“Man!” Logan said, ”Is this some kind of special perk that you get when you’re in the VMX Club? Who knew? Vee-Emm-EXXXX!” He yelled at the passing traffic. “That’s pretty good.”
He let Leo lead him over to the cruiser, then settled into the back seat, feeling the world lurch dizzily around him when he closed his eyes. The radio was squawking constantly, but he couldn’t understand what was being said -- all the muddled, distorted voices were talking over each other, and the world was spinning around him, so he just let it all blur together for a few minutes. Then, he thought he heard someone say Veronica's name but … that was just wishful thinking. “Veronica” he said aloud, and he felt his insides clench.
“Yeah,” Deputy Leo said, and he jumped. He'd kinda forgotten about the Deputy, and the bridge. The blue light strobed through the open door as Leo handed him his car keys and his cell phone. “I couldn’t help but notice that she called.”
Logan stared drunkenly at the screen of his cell phone. “Veronica,” he whispered, then cleared the screen. The fluorescence of the blue light against the bright yellow of his car made him nauseous and he dropped his head back, closing his eyes.
“Yeah,” Deputy Leo said. “Are you gonna call her back?”
Not in this fucking lifetime, he thought bitterly, but managed to choke out “Not right now.”
The car wasn’t moving, and the radio was just a constant stream of confused letters and codes and yelling. When Logan opened his eyes again, the Deputy was staring at him, crouched down in the open door with that weird expression on his face.
“What?” Logan said. “You want to talk to her, you call her. ‘Speak for yourself, John Alden’,” he added with a flourish. Who said those English Lit classes were a waste of time?
“Logan.” The Deputy’s voice was really fucking annoying, and now he was shaking him besides. When he opened his eyes, the flare of the blue lights was competing with new yellow flashing lights, and he could hear the whining of the tow truck that had suddenly appeared and was hooking his car up. He closed his eyes in protest, and the Deputy shook him again.
Logan opened his eyes, “Yes. Still present.” He stared at Leo, who just stared back at him with his mouth open. “What?!”
“Veronica figured out who killed Lilly Kane,” the Deputy said slowly.
Logan just stared at him.
“Did you hear me, Logan?”
“It wasn’t me,” he whispered.
“No, Logan,” the Deputy said quietly. The blue lights were pulsing, and Logan felt the fear creep up his back because he realized that the expression on the Deputy's face was one of pity, and it had nothing at all to do with them being members of the same club. “It wasn’t you.”
When Logan woke up, the first thing that he was conscious of was the wet sleeve sticking uncomfortably to his forehead. He must have been drooling in his sleep; his head was pillowed on his numb forearm, so the dampness had seeped into the cloth. Somehow, the idea that he'd been drooling in his sleep was more attractive than the obvious alternative for why his sleeve was wet. He moved his head further up toward his half-numb bicep and tried to stave off conversation for just a minute longer. The rustling of a newspaper and the sounds of someone shifting in a chair let him know that he wasn't alone, but he didn't want to open his eyes to see the disgust on Sheriff Lamb's face, or even worse, the pity on Deputy Leo's face, so he tried to go back to sleep. The high-pitched yelling outside the room that he'd been dimly aware of a few minutes ago started up again, and he recognized the voice with a groan.
"I really don't want to see her right now," Logan said to the unseen occupant of the room.
"As long as you're in conference with your lawyer, neither God nor the Marines can disturb us," a sonorous voice informed him.
Logan tilted his head to the side and cracked an eye open. "Cliff McCormack?"
"Indeed," his companion offered. He folded his newspaper up neatly and handed Logan a Coke and a bottle of Advil. "And you look like a man who needs this."
Logan looked at him while he thought things through. It was taking him a little bit longer than normal, owing to his pounding headache. If Cliff McCormack was here, it was a pretty sure bet that Veronica had sent him -- but he didn't want to talk about, or to, Veronica just yet.
"Am I in custody?" Logan asked. Just outside the room, Trina asked the same question, but at a significantly louder volume.
"Protective custody, of a sort," Cliff said easily. "There's no way you're going to be able to go home without a police escort, and I imagine that our esteemed Sheriff Lamb will want to take a statement from you."
Logan stared at Cliff for a beat, then accepted the Coke. "So, I guess there's no chance that last night was just a very bad dream?"
Cliff looked back at Logan unblinkingly. "No, Logan," he said. He hesitated for just a second before he opened the newspaper and turned it over, laying it flat on the table where the banner headline screamed at him.
Aaron Echolls Suspected in Murder of Young Lover
"I'm really sorry." Cliff's radio announcer voice was sincere.
Lilly smiled up at him in black and white, next to a huge picture of Aaron at an awards ceremony. Logan lurched to the side to avoid throwing up on the table. There was an empty trashcan conveniently placed at his feet, but he could bring nothing up except bile. He could dimly recall puking his guts out on Deputy Leo's shoes hours before.
He laid his head back down on the table and tried not to cry.
"Are they sure this is true?" he asked in angry voice. "I mean, it's not like she hasn't been wrong before."
"Logan," Cliff said, "are you aware that your parents' pool house was wired to film activities that occurred there?"
Logan just gaped up at him while the implications of that statement sank in, then spent another few minutes fruitlessly trying to heave up his intestines.
"No," he whispered finally. He could feel the bones in his skull pounding in time with his headache. “So Lilly found the cameras and they had a confrontation?” He was too hung over to figure out how she’d gotten away from Aaron.
“No,” Cliff said, “Veronica thinks she found the cameras and fled, taking the tapes.”
He nodded, thinking about the night he’d been with Veronica in the pool house, how he’d come back and she was just gone. A movie was beginning to unspool in his head, of Lilly in her pep uniform, clutching the tapes in her hand. Was she afraid of her secret being revealed?
“She hid the tapes in her room,” Cliff said, and Logan laughed hollowly.
“In the air conditioning vent,” he said knowingly, and Cliff confirmed it with a nod. She hadn’t been afraid then, but was probably planning to blackmail Aaron. He’d like to believe that Lilly’s blackmail might have benefited him, that it would have been about buying him freedom, or peace from Aaron, but … he knew that was just a story he was telling himself.
The movie rolled on in his head and he saw Lilly at the poolside, taunting his father, laughing at him. Maybe he should have told her more about his father’s rage. He always knew that Aaron had the capacity to kill; he’d always just assumed that he’d be the one on the receiving end of that beating.
He closed his eyes and turned the paper over so that wouldn't have to see Lilly's beautiful, lying face anymore and was immediately confronted with a photograph of Veronica weeping. Even in grainy black and white, she looked bruised and bloodied. She was holding onto a barely recognizable Keith Mars as he was being loaded into an ambulance.
"Veronica," he choked out.
"Is fine," Cliff said, and continued off his doubting look, "banged up, a little burned, and has some minor smoke inhalation, but is fine. She's pretty worried about you," he added.
"Aaron?" he asked, pointing at the picture of Veronica and Keith.
"Did he do that to them?" Cliff prompted. "Is that what you're asking me?"
Logan nodded wordlessly.
"Yes," Cliff said succinctly. "For the time being, he's being charged with one count of kidnapping and two counts of attempted murder."
"He tried to kill her," Logan stated, wanting it to be clarified, but wanting Cliff to contradict him far more. As usual, he was disappointed.
"Yes," Cliff said. "But she's OK. She wants you to call her."
Logan just stared at him, wondering how on Earth he could start that conversation. “Is he going to live?” he asked, after a moment of contemplation.
“Well,” Cliff said, “your father is in very serious condition.”
“Is he going to live?” Logan asked through clenched teeth.
“I believe so,” Cliff responded.
“And the bad news just keeps on coming,” Logan quipped, just before he laid his aching head down and tried not to think anymore.
An hour later, his headache was only dulled, which was no surprise. Even on a good day, proximity to Trina and a hangover were two things that should never be mixed together. Despite the fact that she had been forced to remain outside the interrogation room, Trina managed to be a disruptive force. He was pretty sure that Lamb was dragging this whole thing out just to piss Trina off more.
Sheriff Lamb was pretending to have a hard time comprehending that Logan had no idea that his father and Lilly were 'having an affair', as he insisted on saying over and over again. Logan could have laughed at the idea of his father being involved in such a romantic construct, but he was just too numb. Part of him wanted to correct the record and say that he was pretty sure that they were just plain fucking each other, but he wasn’t about to give any listening ears this evening's sound bite for the news. The very idea of Lilly and … it just made his brain lock up.
“You really had no idea?” Lamb said in a tone of cynical disbelief that barely hid his glee at the whole sordid situation. “Wow. You really aren’t that bright about women, are you, Echolls?”
“Well,” Logan said, as he pointed at the picture of Veronica in the newspaper, “I’d say my record with women is still better than your record of solving crimes. Lucky for me, my job doesn’t depend upon my record.”
The vein on Lamb’s head was bulging quite nicely, but Cliff spoke before he could unhinge his jaw.
“And … we’re officially done here,” he said smoothly. “Any other questions you have to ask my client, you submit in writing.”
Logan had stood up while Cliff was speaking and the room swayed a little when he did so. His last meal had been a long time ago.
“There is still the matter of public drunkenness,” Lamb said hotly.
“Ooh …” Cliff said, looking at his watch. “And there’s the little matter of my client having been told that he was being taken into protective custody for his own safety and security, due to the incredibly high press curiosity about his father's arrest. On top of that is the complete and utter lack of being informed of his Miranda rights, being processed for arrest or having had a Breathalyzer or a blood sample taken.”
“We could get those now,” Lamb said tightly, while Logan nonchalantly folded the newspaper and tucked it under his arm.
“Not without a court order,” Cliff said. He ushered Logan in front of him. “We’ll take the ride home that was promised to Mr. Echolls now. Mr. Echolls has answered all of your questions to the best of his knowledge, and while the hospitality of Neptune’s finest has certainly been appreciated, it’s long past the time that my underage client got some rest.”
Cliff opened the door and Trina launched herself at Logan at the same time that the cameras flashed and whirred from the far side of the squad room where the paparazzi were trying to break in. Trina was yelling about police harassment and their father being railroaded and threatening lawsuits and crying, but Logan was trying to pay attention to a very tired looking Deputy Leo.
“I’m sorry, Logan,” he said, “they’re all over the building and the best we could do was keep them out of the squad room, but …”
“They’ve got long lenses and big lights,” Logan answered.
“Pretty much,” Leo said. “We’ve got a car out front to take you and your sister home. Your car is waiting for you there.” He handed Logan an envelope. “Here are the things you left in the car.”
Leo’s expression was fairly neutral, but Logan could still see the hint of pity in his eyes. Still, it was far better than the gawping curiosity of the other personnel in the sheriff’s office. They were acting as if he’d never been here before, which certainly wasn’t true. But now he wasn’t the spoiled rich son of two movie stars, just the boy who’d been cuckolded by his father, the murderer. Logan realized that he was crushing the envelope and the newspaper when he heard his cell phone power up. He tucked the items under his arm and peeled Trina off of his neck. “Can we go now, please?” he asked Leo.
“Yeah,” Leo said, and then turned around to ask some of his colleagues to clear the way for him.
“Thank you,” he said to Cliff, and he meant it.
“Take care of yourself, Logan,” Cliff said.
Logan huffed out a laugh, but stopped himself from saying ‘what for?’ in front of all the listening ears.
When he turned around, he noticed that Trina had managed to touch up her lipstick and powder her nose. She seemed remarkably recovered from her hysteria as she wound a scarf around her hair and fished her Carreras out of her bag.
“Maybe you should freshen up before we go,” she suggested.
“No,” he said firmly. “Let’s just go.” He could hear the roar of the crowd outside and was sure that everyone could see how utterly terrified he was to go out in front of them, but he didn’t have a choice. When the doors swung open, the paparazzi pressed in against the inadequate cordon of deputies, and they were pushed back into the vestibule for a moment before they began to swim against the tide.
Trina had taken his hand, and she was moving forward into the throng, not noticing or not caring that he was momentarily paralyzed by the mass of cameras in front of him. “Logan! Logan! Logan!” he could hear, and the sound of his name seemed to be coming from every direction.
“Logan, did you know?”
“Logan, how do you feel?”
“Logan! Have you seen your father?”
“We have no comment!” Trina said. “We know our father will be vindicated,” she yelled and the cameras swung to her momentarily. Logan hoped that this meant they had missed his expression of disbelief. He tried to pull his hand away from Trina, but she was holding it in front of her as she plowed through the deepest phalanx of the paparazzi. He was pretty sure that she'd done it on purpose, aimed too wide to actually reach the car easily, but he weighed twice as much as she did. He stopped moving and began to tug her back in the right direction.
“Logan! Have you seen the tapes?”
The paparazzi surged away from them suddenly, and Logan pushed Trina toward the car, just as he realized why they’d left.
“Veronica!” The calls were coming from all over the place. “Over here, Veronica!”
He lost his hold on Trina as he caught sight of Veronica, looking very small and startled in the crowd. Her cheek was scraped and raw-looking and there was a red mark on her forehead. She was so pale that the bruises looked blue against her skin, but somehow she was still so beautiful, real and alive and he loved her, even though he wanted to hate her.
She saw him just as that thought surged through his consciousness and he wasn’t sure, but he might have reflexively smiled, just out of relief, when her tearful eyes locked with his.
“You bitch!” Trina shrieked from next to him. “You lying, no good, piece of white trash!”
The sad smile that had been blooming on Veronica’s lips withered at the sound of Trina’s voice, which she had perfectly timed for a lull in the yelling. The cameras swung back toward him as he pushed Trina toward the waiting squad car.
“You’re going to pay for your lies, Veronica Mars,” Trina continued, “I’ll make sure of it!”
“Trina,” Logan hissed, “shut the fuck up!” He shoved her into the car none too gently and turned back to look at Veronica, who had stepped towards him, only to see Duncan standing protectively behind her in the place that Logan used to occupy. Duncan’s eyes were unreadable as he looked across the scrum of reporters. They hadn’t spoken since Logan’s un-birthday party, although Logan had left a couple of messages and sent an e-mail or two.
Duncan placed his hand on Veronica’s shoulder and said something in her ear. Veronica shook her head as she tried to move toward Logan, but Duncan said something else and she stopped. Veronica was openly crying now as Duncan put his arm around her. The cameras were capturing the whole tender scene as she sorrowfully turned her attention away from Logan, letting Duncan lead her into the police station.
Logan turned toward the police car with unseeing eyes. Deputy Leo had turned the blue lights on, and he let them blind him as the flashes went off around him. He sank into the car, and dropped his head back against the seat as they tried to drive away.
He'd been replaced. Which was ironic, he thought, considering he was the replacement himself.