Rating : R
Setting : Post-Chosen for the Buffyverse characters, and after Veronica Mars 1x15 – Ruskie Business.
Disclaimer : Veronica Mars is smarter than me and belongs to UPN. Some Whedon guy owns the Buffyverse characters.
Summary : Veronica Mars meets some newcomers to Neptune, and finds that her safe little world has just gotten a lot more dangerous.
Author's Notes : Thanks to hjcallipygian for the beta. Lovely chap.
Part one can be found here.
4: Looking Down
The local newspaper had some details next morning. Two girls were attacked last night, and one of them was killed. The other was in the hospital in a coma and not expected to last the day. Sheriff Lamb was quoted as saying that the public shouldn’t panic, the police force was investigating several significant leads, and an arrest was expected shortly. Personally, I had my doubts – that sounded way too articulate for Lamb.
Neither victim was named, but I had no doubt that the old Neptune High grapevine would have that information. But the most interesting thing in the whole report? Whatever had happened last night had occurred in an alley that ran behind the Sunset Pines Motel. You know – the one I could have sworn I saw Casey by last night. Curiouser and curiouser.
I poured through the four-page feature, which to my displeasure contained no photos other than Lamb's election shot. Halfway through, as I tried not to spill cereal on it, Dad came back. Early.
“Mmmmph!?” I said, mouth full of Lucky Charms (yes, I like them; sue me), suddenly aware that I was still in my PJs, and hadn’t tidied the apartment like I was meant to.
“Hey, hon,” he said as he kissed me on the cheek and expertly stole the newspaper. “Shouldn’t you be dressed for school by now?”
I swear there are times when I could cheerfully kill him. With an expressive sniff, I took my bowl of Lucky Charms, turned and walked to my bedroom. Dignity is important in situations like these.
I came out, fully dressed and ready to rumble. My demeanour was spoilt only by having to go back for the now-empty bowl. Dad barely glanced up as I advanced on him. “We really must get you some matching pyjamas at some point, hon,” he offhandedly commented.
I opened my mouth, and then closed it again. “You’re back early, Dad,” I eventually said, mildly. Tough to get a good rant going after you lose your opening line.
“Hmm?” said Dad, still absent-mindedly scanning the paper. “Oh, yes, picked up Elizabeth Marks just outside San Diego last night. Her and that Alex Harrison were at it again – talk about an abused husband.” He shook his head sadly, put down the paper, and regarded me. “Anyhow, when I heard about this guy attacking some more young women, I thought you might appreciate me being around the place a bit more.”
Awwww. But I still didn’t forgive him for the PJs crack.
I had time to spare before class started today, so naturally I couldn’t resist driving past the Sunset Pines Motel. Lamb had his guys out in force around the crime scene, keeping the crowd of onlookers and gawpers away. I spotted Deputy Leo looking pretty spiffy in his uniform, but decided not to wave.
Now, what I really wanted was a better look, but there was no way I was going to get past the police line. Sometimes it’s handy to have nearly every policeman in Neptune to know what I look like.
This wasn’t one of those occasions.
Now, one of the fun facts about us poor humans is that we always tend to think in two dimensions. Every way of getting to the alley on the ground blocked? Seek higher ground, Veronica Mars. There were some uniforms around the Sunset Pines Motel, but that still left the building on the other side of the alley. I grabbed my camera and went for a look.
The building turned out to be mainly small offices, with an office supplies place as the main display. Most of the occupants, it turned out, happened to be in the crowd of onlookers. Highlight of their week, I guessed. I ignored them all and headed round the back, out of sight of everyone.
I was looking for a way onto the roof if possible, and the gods were smiling on me. A single door at the back stood open, with a staircase going up beyond it. I grinned. “Honestly, officer – I was just passing by, and I thought I heard someone call for help,” I rehearsed. “So naturally I went to look.”
The stairs were steep, and there were a lot of them. It was all worth the panting and puffing, though, when I reached the top. A nice flat, open rooftop with an even nicer view towards the alley. I ducked down, readied my camera and crept to the edge.
I was somewhat disappointed with the view. Sure, CSI makes it look all clue bags and chalk outlines and interesting, but this was just plain sad. There were a couple of deputies standing around, and someone scraped something off the wall around five or six feet up. I took a couple of pictures just in case, and tried to focus in further on what they were looking at.
And then I realised it had to be blood. At head height on a wall. How much force and violence did that take? How much savagery?
Suddenly I didn’t feel so good. My head swam, and I felt like I had when I’d seen Lilly’s body. I turned around and slumped against the parapet. Apart from Lilly, I’d never come near a murder before -- the closest thing was the guy Dad shot in our apartment complex. Was I doing the right thing? Did I really want to go looking for someone who could do something like that? Hell of a step up from looking into minor stuff for Dad, or snapping surveillance photos at midnight.
My musings were interrupted by a cigarette butt landing at my feet. Second time in two days. I looked up. Same person this time as well.
Faith stood there, leaning against the stairwell, arms folded, and blew a flume of smoke into the air If I’d thought about it on the way up, then I would have realised that someone opened the stairs door. I gave myself a minus point and tried to pull myself together. Anyone who can make Weevil’s psycho neighbour behave is worth being careful around.
“So, saw your big entrance yesterday. What do you do for an encore?” Guess I don’t do careful all that well. Or tactful.
Faith tilted her head and straightened up from her pose. She’d lost the leather jacket from when I’d last seen her, and was just wearing the leather trousers and grey t-shirt. “You know,” she said coming towards me, “you might want to be a bit more careful in this town.” She smirked. “Bad things happen to girls around here,” she said, and nodded towards the alley behind me. “And here you come, merrily tripping along, camera ready, little Miss Nancy Drew.”
I looked at her, raised the camera and gave her my cheesiest smile. “Smile for the camera, please,” I said sweetly, and took her photo. “And that’s little Miss Veronica Mars, if you don’t mind. Some of us still have reputations we’d like to keep.”
Faith stared at me for a moment, then smiled broadly. “You’re short, you’re sassy, you’re blond,” she said, shaking her head still with that amused grin. “There is no way in hell I’m calling you anything but V.”
She sauntered over to me and stood over me, still smiling. “You know, you’re nosy enough, and we got the same attitude problem, V. I’ll definitely be seeing you around.”
She walked to the far side of the roof, across from the crime scene alley, and sprung up onto the parapet. Looking back at me, she flashed a wide grin, almost savage. “But I mean it – bad things are gonna happen. You watch yourself, V.”
And with that, she threw herself off the side.
I froze in shock for a moment before I scrambled to my feet and raced to that side of the building. Fully expecting to see an injured woman three stories down, I looked over the edge.
And there Faith was, casually standing on the ground next to her motorcycle. No fire escapes, nothing to hang onto, and she wasn’t even out of breath. She simply waved up at me, swung her leg over the saddle and pulled on her helmet. I just stood there, mouth open as she roared off.
“Okay,” I eventually said, “looks like you can do good exits, too.”
I still had a little time before school, so I decided to drive over to the office and download the photos I’d taken. I needed some hard copies of Todd and his car before I saw Weevil again. And Faith. There was something definitely going on with that girl.
I’m Veronica Mars. No-one scares me off anything.
It’s a recent change, but something I’ve learned about myself is that the best way to get me to dig my feet in and be stubborn on something is to tell me not to do it. Unfortunately, knowing your own faults does not automatically give you a pass.
First Robin Wood. Now, this Faith tells me to be careful.
I don’t care. Something’s going on in Neptune, and I’m going to find out what. Whatever it takes.
My eyes narrowed as I pulled in and parked outside the office of Mars Investigations. Dad’s car was there as I expected, but there was an official looking one and a police car that looked very familiar.
Being as quiet as I could, I walked into the office. Yes, eavesdropping is a bad thing, and I was certainly not doing that; I was merely not wanting to disturb anyone wishing to consult Dad. Anything I heard was purely accidental.
The first voice I heard was Sheriff Lamb protesting something, before he was over-ruled by a voice I’d heard before. A few more steps forward and I recognised the Mayor’s voice. I like this Mayor. If he continues hiring Dad, I might even vote for him.
There was a general stirring of chairs, and Lamb came out, thunder-faced. Pulling up at the sight of me, he snarled, “Shouldn’t you be in school?”
I smiled sweetly up at him. “Free period,” I said, fluttering my eyelashes. “But it’s sweet of you to care about my grades.”
“4.0 grade point average,” came a proud paternal voice from the side. “Keeps all the teachers off my back whenever they need to speak to me.”
“Hi, Dad,” I said, and kissed him on the cheek. “Hi, Mister Mayor. Hiring my Dad again?”
The Mayor just smiled perfunctly at me, and turned back to Dad. “Good to have you on board, Keith. Keep me or my office fully informed, will you?”
“I will,” Dad promised, shaking hands. I couldn’t help but notice he didn’t even attempt to try and shake Lamb’s. Good.
As the two of them left the office, I sat down at my desk and flashed Dad a great big wide smile. “Are you and Lamb going after another serial killer? Because this time you really need to get danger money thrown in.”
“I didn’t think Lamb looked that murderous,” Dad said dryly. “But no. It’s not about those dead girls, though it is slightly related, I suppose.”
“Awww,” I pouted, and lost most of my interest. I pulled the flash card from my camera and slotted it into my computer's card reader. While I downloaded the pictures, I turned back to Dad. “So? What do they want you to look into this time?”
Dad reappeared from his office, carrying a file. “You know, Veronica,” he said, “I think the Mayor might appreciate you using his name occasionally when he comes out of his way to visit here.”
I looked up from my computer. “When I actually remember what it is, I might use it more. Come on, spill!”
Dad sighed, then ruefully smiled at me. “Okay. What they would like me to do is look into a number of kids that have run away from home recently. Lamb and the department are a little stretched with the murders, and some of the kids are from families with money.”
“In other words,” I decoded, “something actually has to be done about it, and the Mayor has to be seen doing something in order not to lose votes.”
“Precisely,” said Dad. He perched on the edge of my desk. ”It shouldn’t be too bad – some of the kids have been seen still around in Neptune, mainly hanging around nightclubs or driving around at night. I just have to find them and persuade them to go home.”
He dropped the file he was holding on my desk. “Of course, it also means that I have to leave some of my other current cases on hold. Unless, say, someone was to do some basic legwork for me – in between getting her homework done!”
Ha ha. I picked up the folder and looked at it. “And this would be…?” I enquired.
“Mrs Swanson, the Baptist minister’s wife, wants me to look into this new shop that’s opened,” Dad explained. “Apparently, she’s very concerned that it might lead to the ‘moral degradation of the local community’. It’s just a look over the shop and see if there’s anything funny about it that she can kick up a stink about.”
I rolled my eyes. It was always fun working for the ultra-Christians.
“Madison Magic, eh? Should be a piece of cake.”
End part four
<<<  >>>