Author's Note: This is a very light chapter. After few days of hell, I think we all need something to brighten our mood. Thanks to cainc3 for the beta! I hope you enjoy this chapter.
Logan: Neptune, Balboa County 2016
Logan arrived home carrying a lot of groceries. As he struggled to open the door, he heard laughter and a shriek from inside. He opened the door and called out, "I'm home! Lorrie, I got you your favorite squid donuts!" His daughter loved Takoyaki, a Japanese deep fried snack that she always asked Logan to get whenever he went shopping.
Lorrie came out from her room, followed by a little girl around three years old. Lorrie exclaimed, "Daddy!" Logan was going to hug her after he put the groceries on the kitchen island, but she avoided him and went straight to the Takoyaki bag. "Thanks for the squid!"
"I can't believe you chose food first before me." Logan pouts exaggeratedly. Lorrie bit the fried donut hole happily and gave one to the little girl beside her. She accepted the snack shyly. She bit it and when it didn't taste disgusting, she smiled. "How do you like it, Valentina? Good?"
The little girl nodded happily.
"Oh great, now she's going to ask for that all the time." A beautiful woman came out from the laundry room and picked her up. She gave her a kiss on the cheek. "She asked for that weird candy that you gave her, and she couldn't stop asking for it."
"Sorry, Jade." Logan shrugged and put some of the groceries in the fridge. "Just trying to broaden her taste bud." He then grinned, "Tell that to Weevil."
"Ugh, you both are the worst." Jade shook her head as her daughter rested her head on her mother's shoulder while chewing her snack. "Eli is always asking whether there's something he can use to blackmail you."
"Tell him that I am an open book." Logan watched Lorrie and Valentina eating happily.
Jade was working part time as Logan's house assistant. She was doing the household laundry, cooking, and babysitting Lorrie. Occasionally, she would do Logan's booking. She always comes to his house with her daughter Valentina. Jade married to Eli Navarro a few years back before she started working for Logan. Logan and Weevil weren't exactly friends, but they get along. They buried the hatchet after a while, and they were friendly now. Weevil had his own garage and workshop, and sometimes Logan takes his car there to get maintenance.
"Anyway, Eli is picking us up and we're going to my mother's house to have our annual dinner." She was putting Valentina's jacket on. "I put some chicken quesadillas and meatloaf in the fridge; you can just heat them up."
"Oh, you're a life savior." Logan peeked inside the fridge. "I was gonna order some pizza but this is much better."
"Don't feed your daughter pizza every day, I beg you."
Logan grinned. "Thank god I got you."
Lorrie ran back from her room and brought her Teddy bear. "Here you are, Tina. This is for you." Valentina's eyes widened and she looked at her mother.
"Lorrie, you don't have to. It's your toy." Jade shook her head. Valentina looked sad but she only held her mother's hand.
"It's okay. Bubba needs a new friend. Tina will take care of him." Lorrie insisted and put the bear on Valentina's arms. The little toddler smiled and hugged the bear tightly. She closed her eyes and hugged the bear closely to her cheek happily.
Jade sighed and smiled to Lorrie, "Gracias, Lorrie."
Lorrie hugged Jade and then Valentina. "You will come tomorrow, right?" She looked at Logan who was watching the interaction. "Uncle Dick is going to take me surfing. Maybe Tina can learn how to surf too!"
Jade laughed, "Tina needs to learn how to swim first. I will call, okay?"
They heard the sound of a truck outside the house. Valentine immediately ran outside, "Papi!"
A bald man came out from the driver's seat and immediately picked her up. Weevil kissed his daughter and then waved at the house. Logan saw him and waved back. Weevil strapped Valentina in her car seat while she was chattering about her new bear.
"Okay, I gotta go. Thanks again for the bear, Lorrie." She hugged the child and then hugged Logan. "Have you finished your new novel yet?" She asked him.
"I haven't even started yet." Logan shrugged.
"Oh? I thought the deadline was coming up?"
"I still haven't found my muse." Logan helped her with her jacket.
"You'll get it. I know you will. And you will write another best seller." Jade glanced at Weevil in the car. "Don't tell my husband that I told you this, but he's a big fan of your book." Logan widened his eyes, and a grin was formed. "He will deny it, but I saw him reading your book and crying."
"Jade… this is the best news I have ever heard. Please tell me more."
Jade slapped his shoulder and laughed, and then she said goodbye. Logan hoisted Lorrie up on his hip. She was eating the Takoyaki and waved at the Navarros. When they finally drove away, Logan went back in the house and dropped her on the soft couch.
"Ow, daddy!" She complained but she continued chewing.
"Are you okay giving your favorite bear to Valentina?" Logan asked while he went to the kitchen to grab a soda. "She looked happy."
"She needs him more than I do. Besides, I have other bears." Lorrie shrugged and closed her eyes, chewing. "She's like a little sister to me."
"That's very kind of you, pumpkin. I'm proud of you." Logan opened a can of Pepsi and drank it.
"Hey, dad? When can I have a little sister?" Lorrie asked. "I want one!"
Logan choked on his drink.
Weevil and Jade: Neptune, Balboa County 2016
Weevil was driving and humming a Spanish song that was on the radio. He glanced at the rear-view mirror and saw his little daughter was nodding along with the song, and she was munching a donut.
"What'cha got there, princess? You seem to be enjoying that so much."
"It's a squid donut." Jade answered, which made Weevil widened his eyes in surprise.
"What? How is that possible?" Jade only laughed while she was checking her phone, looking at some pictures of her daughter and Lorrie. They looked so cute together. There was a picture where Lorrie and Valentina laughing – their mouths were open, and they were holding their bodies from laughter.
"Lorrie loves that snack, so she shared. Logan's daughter also gave Tina the bear." Jade showed him the stuffed bear. "She is so precious. She loves Tina like a sister."
"Sometimes I can't believe that girl is Opie's daughter," Weevil commented.
"Stop that. You know he's a nice guy." His wife shook her head. "I don't understand your relationship."
"Opie was a jackass back in high school and college. It wasn't until his daughter was born that I didn't want to shove his head to a furnace anymore."
Weevil glanced back again to see that Valentina was nodding sleepily and her squid donut was half-eaten in her hand. Glad that she didn't hear his outburst, he grinned. "Babe, it's fine. It's how we roll. He wanted to kick my a – butt too." He wanted to laugh at the snide look his wife was giving him. "It's just the way it is. We're not enemies anymore, but we're not friends either. There's this huge gap between us, 'kay? From everything like our social status, money, and skin color…" He shrugged. "I'm just glad that Opie is no longer THAT guy. But that doesn't mean I would break some bread with him." He rubbed Jade's arm. "And I am glad that he's being nice to you and Tina. His daughter really turned him upside down."
"Like you," Jade commented. "You would still be in that gang if it weren't Tina."
"A club, actually. Not a gang. And yes, you and Tina are the lights of my life and I am glad that you are here with me." He smiled. "You complete me."
"You're so cheesy."
"Me gusta keso." He chuckled and his wife only gave him a look.
"I hope nothing will change that, Eli. You worked very hard to get where you are." Jade murmured. She remembered the hardship and the struggle for her husband to stay on the straight and narrow. She knew it very well and she would do anything to keep everything normal. Weevil's finger traced her cheek, and she closed her eyes, savoring his touch.
"That would never happen. Not even anything or anyone can mess around with this."
Veronica: Neptune, Balboa County 2016
When she landed at Balboa County Municipal Airport, she immediately took a cab to her father's office. Mars Investigation had moved a few years back. Right now the office was located near an industrial area where there were warehouses and old buildings. Neptune was still a place for tourists, though, for some reasons. Every spring break, the town was flooded with many college students and the town was busy with vacation money. The detective work seemed to be blooming with many cases for Keith Mars.
Veronica sat in the back of the cab watching the view. The last time she came home was when her dad moved to a new house. They were no longer living in that small apartment in Sunset Cliff near the beach. As much she was going to miss living there, she was glad that the business was booming and her dad finally could move to a better house with good plumbing.
She arrived at the new office and looked up. The building was looking gloomy compared to their old Mars Investigations office. But the rent was much cheaper and it was closer to downtown. Veronica decided to leave her suitcase downstairs instead carrying it up to the second floor. She noticed the Mars Investigations logo in front of the door and wiped the surface with her handkerchief. It was dirty, and she had an urge to clean the door.
She then entered the reception area and noticed that a middle-age woman was sitting there. The woman looked up and nodded politely to Veronica. She smiled back and awkwardly stood there for few seconds, not knowing what to do. She saw through the window and the blinds that her father was in his office and talking to a client. She could hear the murmur of conversation.
The phone on the reception desk was ringing. She cleared her throat when it rang a few times, walked to the desk, and answered the phone.
"Mars Investigations." She listened to the phone while grabbing a notepad on the desk to write down some information. "He's unavailable right now. Can I take a message?" She scribbled some things and looked up. His father led a client out of his office and they exchanged some pleasantries. He didn't see Veronica at first, but then he turned around in surprise when he heard her voice. "Yes, ma'am… we will take pictures. But I'm afraid shooting your husband is not a service we currently offer. Sorry. Yeah… Thanks."
Veronica hung up the phone and smiled at her dad.
"Either this is a mirage or I finally lost my mind." Keith gleefully greeted his daughter. "My adorable, famous daughter is in my office."
"Dad." Veronica rolled her eyes hearing her dad calling her famous, but they embraced anyway.
"What a surprise! What brings you here?" Keith hugged Veronica very tight. Veronica felt her chest tightened. She just realized that she missed her dad so much. "Why didn't you tell me? I could've picked you up at the airport."
"It's… a spur of a moment thing. I really missed you, dad."
Keith saw that Veronica's eyes were glassy even when she was smiling. He put both of his hands on her cheeks and kissed her forehead. "Well, I'm glad you're here."
Keith saw the middle-age woman who was in the room and then exclaimed, "Mrs. Quan! Thank you for waiting. This is my daughter, Veronica. She's a famous photographer."
Mrs. Quan smiled, "Yes I can see the resemblance."
Veronica made a funny face hearing that. She hoped that she didn't look bald or anything.
"What can I do for you, Mrs. Quan?" Keith asked.
Mrs. Quan handed him a shopping bag. "I cooked your favorite; chicken and beef stew with vegetables."
Keith grinned widely accepting the bag and peeking inside. "Oh wow, thank you." He saw a food pot and suddenly felt hungry.
"I just want to say thanks for all you have done for my family, Mr. Mars. Especially my son." Her voice quivered. "I don't know what I would do without you."
"Oh my, Mrs. Quan. You hired me to take a look your son's case. And he was innocent." Veronica didn't know what happened, but she kept quiet, listening to their conversation.
"I'm sorry I can't pay you right now, but I promise I will pay."
"Mrs. Quan…" Keith shook his head.
"And now I won't lose the family restaurant. All thanks to you!" She sniffled while Keith patted her shoulder awkwardly. She turned to Veronica, "You have a kind father, Miss Mars. You are so lucky. I can't thank him enough."
"Mrs. Quan. Please." Keith seemed to be embarrassed about the whole thing, but Veronica looked at him like he was ten feet tall. She was so proud of her father – whatever he had done to help Mrs. Quan, but regardless – she had nothing but love and respect towards him.
"He is the best," Veronica said, smiling at her father.
Keith and Veronica were on their way home after they closed the office. Keith didn't have an assistant or a secretary, so he was spread thin, doing everything himself. Veronica decided she'd try to find someone to help him out, but discreetly because Keith sometimes could be very stubborn about using her money.
Veronica could smell the food from Mrs. Quan that she put in the backseat of the car. "Smells delicious."
"I know. We can have dinner now." Keith was humming a song while driving. "Glad you're here so I don't have to finish the food by myself."
"What was that all about? Why did Mrs. Quan cook for you?"
Keith sighed, "She hired me to investigate her son. He was framed by his friend for stealing money. I proved his innocence."
"That's my pop." She said proudly. "And the food?"
"The family couldn't afford my fee for now because they hired lawyers and such. They almost lost their restaurant. I gave them some… leeway."
"You are such a softie." Veronica smiled and rubbed her dad's head. "I missed you."
"Speaking of missing each other, how is Stosh?"
Veronica retracted her hand and looked away, "Oh you know, busy with his job. Interviewing famous people…"
"He knows that you're visiting me, right?"
"Yep." She popped the 'p'. "He said that you need to check out this indie album – I don't remember which album – but he said you'd like it."
Keith glanced at his daughter. It was obvious that there was something wrong, but he wouldn't pry. Not just yet.
"Well, as much I dislike the idea of you sharing a rooftop together –"
"New York is expensive, I need a roommate." Veronica quickly said.
"—I am glad that you're with Stosh. He's a nice man. Very nice." Keith tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. "Stosh is nice."
"Yes. He is nice."
"Still not liking the idea of you sharing the same bed or anything…"
At home, they had finished their late dinner. Veronica exhaled as she puffed her cheeks. Her stomach was full now and she couldn't wait to go to bed.
"I am glad to see you're a very successful photographer now." Keith began. "Everything seems to be in order. Good job, good relationship…"
"Yeah…" She started to clean the table. Keith knew this maneuver; she was avoiding something – probably a conversation about her relationship.
"You're destined for greatness, something much bigger than you would've ever found here."
"The only "greatness" inherent in photography is the fact that I managed to pay off my student loans. Other than that, it's just a job." She put the dishes in the sink, noisily.
"An amazing career!" Keith yelled at her while she was in the kitchen. "You are famous now."
"I don't even have a Twitter account."
"Ah, who cares about those twits."
Veronica smiled while washing the dishes. "What's your plan for tomorrow?"
"I have to meet a client." Keith yawned and stretched his body. "Cheating spouse case. Boring, but big money."
"You just roll in money, right?"
"Not as much as you." He stood up and hugged his daughter. "Welcome home."
"If you're gonna meet up with Wallace tomorrow, let him know that he owes me money for that basketball game." He walked into his bedroom.
"I will." She watched her dad as he walked into his room and closed the door. Her phone suddenly buzzed on the kitchen counter. She glanced at it and noticed it was Piz calling.
She didn't answer.
She scrubbed the dirt and washed the dishes very hard instead.