"Holy shit! Oh man, I'm scarred for life!"
Wallace held a hand in front of his face, shading his eyes from the horror of the desktop photo on Dick's laptop.
"What, you've never seen a donkey show before?" Logan asked, clicking to open Dick's e-mail account.
"God, no! You have?"
"Yeah, once on a trip to Tijuana a couple years ago with Dick and Casey and some of the guys."
"Why would anyone want to watch that? Why?" Wallace asked incredulously.
"Actually, I had about a half a quart of tequila in me, so my vision was kind of fuzzy, but…" Logan paused.
"Yeah, it's disgusting," Logan conceded. "It seemed like it would be funny when someone suggested it, but I think we were all pretty grossed out."
"Apparently he was a fan, yes. OK, here's his e-mail."
"What about his password?" Wallace wondered aloud.
"He never logs out—he and I are the only one who ever use this computer anyway, and he trusts me," Logan said guiltily.
It didn't take long to find the e-mail with the video of Veronica and Piz, saved in the folder labeled "PORN!1!" The message was sent by Pi Sig president Chip Diller—to Dick and about 30 other frat brothers.
"OK, so we go talk to Chip," Wallace gritted as he stood up.
Logan shook his head. "You can't ask Chip about this. He knows you're friends with Veronica—and Piz. He's not going to tell you anything that will get one of his friends in trouble. I might have an idea, but we can't do much tonight anyway." He gestured to the darkening sky out the window. "It's getting late, and there's no way Chip's going to be home now."
"True," Wallace sighed, his arms dropping limply to his sides. He had gotten psyched up for a confrontation with Chip, but he knew Logan had a point.
"Personally, I could use some food. You hungry?" Logan asked, tossing him the room service menu.
"Yeah!" Wallace answered enthusiastically, glancing down the list of gourmet meals available. He was always hungry, and the earlier fight had given him an appetite. OK, this is weird. An hour ago, I was punching him in the face, and now he's offering me a buffalo burger. "Are you sure this is cool?"
"Well, as it turns out, I may have deserved this," Logan said, gesturing to his swollen, cut lip. "Besides, I've had worse." He shrugged.
I wonder if he's talking about bar fights, or…. Neptune High's gossip mills were frequently swirling with rumors that Aaron Echolls was not the model father he played in the magazine cover stories: Logan frequently showed up with bruises and broken bones attributed to fights that no one had seen, but a threatening look from Duncan Kane or Dick Casablancas usually squelched any conversations about the source of Logan's injuries. Veronica probably knew the real story by now, but she didn't talk much about Logan and Wallace didn't ask.
"OK, then I'll have the buffalo burger with everything on it," Wallace decided.
"An excellent choice," Logan said as he picked up the phone to place the order. Wallace picked up the ice packs they'd been using to soothe their injuries and put them back in the small freezer by the mini-bar.
He sat down on one of the couches and looked around the enormous hotel suite, with its flat-screen TV, balcony, and two huge bedrooms with their own bathrooms. This place is as big as my house, without the kitchen. When Logan got off the phone, he climbed over the back of the other couch and flopped down on the cushions to wait for the food to arrive.
"Why do you still live in a hotel?" Wallace asked. "For what you're paying to live here, you could get a really nice house, or a condo or something. I mean, I know you can afford it, but still…"
"I don't know, it's just easy, I guess," Logan explained. "We thought about moving, but Dick's pretty attached to all the amenities. The thought of him trying to fend for himself is pretty scary."
"You wouldn't want to just get your own place?" Wallace asked.
"Nah, not right now," Logan replied, pulling a throw pillow into his lap and looking intently at a tassel as he fidgeted with it. "Dick and I, you know, we're sort of the only family we've got. Neither of us really has anyone left."
Wallace didn't know what to say to that.
"Do you want to hear something really sad? Dick is the only person I give a damn about who's never left me. Even when I told him to fuck off and that I never wanted to see him again, he still came back."
"When was that?" Wallace asked.
"When he first found out about me and Veronica, let's just say he wasn't happy about it. I told him that anyone who didn't like my girlfriend was dead to me, and kicked him out of my house. He didn't talk to me for a few days, but then he came up to me one morning in the quad, asked me what kind of pizza I wanted for lunch, and that was it. And that summer when my dad was arrested and I was charged with killing Felix, all lot of my so-called friends bailed on me, but Dick and Cassidy still came by almost every day to make sure I was OK. So with Cassidy…gone…and his dad going to jail, I've gotta stick around and make sure Dick's OK."
Wallace nodded in understanding. They sat quietly for a moment, until Logan suddenly jumped up for another beer. "The food's going to be here in a few minutes. Do you need another one?"
"Yeah, thanks," Wallace said, accepting the bottle. "So, how are things with Parker?" he asked, trying to lighten the mood.
"Not so good. She dumped me shortly before you showed up to bash my face in," Logan said dryly. "I'm surprised you didn't run into her in the lobby."
"She dumped you?"
"She thinks I beat up Piz because I'm still in love with Veronica."
Wallace paused for a moment. Should I ask? Ah, what the hell—"Are you?"
"Yeah," Logan said matter-of-factly, without hesitation. "I still loved her after I broke up with her, so I sure as hell still love her after she broke up with me. I didn't mean to hurt Parker—I like her a lot. But I'm definitely not over Veronica. I just—."
There was a knock at the door. "Room service!"
"Saved by the bell, so to speak," Logan said a little too brightly as he got up to answer the door. He signed the tab as the waiter pushed the cart into the suite, then picked up the two plates and handed one to Wallace. He sat back down on the couch.
"Here's the thing. I know you two are BFFs and all that, but you can't tell her what I just said. There's a guy code about this sort of thing."
"Your relationship with my BFF is none of my business," Wallace said. "One minute you hate each other, then suddenly you love each other—I can't keep track anymore."
"Me neither," Logan gave a wry laugh. "You also can't tell her that we're tracking down this video together—she'll be really pissed if she finds out I'm involved at all."
"I won't say anything. Better that she not know I'm working on it either," Wallace said. "She never wants me to get too involved in these things."
"Good," Logan replied. "OK, now about Chip Diller…"
The next morning in the Hearst food court, Wallace sat at his usual table, eating breakfast with Veronica and trying to act casual while glancing nervously at the door every few minutes.
"Come on, Wallace, what's going on?" Veronica asked. "First, you won't tell me what happened with Logan last night, and now you're acting all jumpy."
"It's nothing, I'm fine," Wallace said as Logan walked in. The hits Wallace had gotten in the day before had bruised and scabbed over, and Logan looked pretty bad.
"Oh my God, Wallace, did you do that?" Veronica asked.
"Yeah," he answered, barely restraining a small grin. "I told him he'd better not mess with my friends again."
Logan glanced over at their table and gave Wallace an almost imperceptible nod. For Veronica's benefit, Wallace shot what he hoped was a steely glare in Logan's direction.
"Wallace…" Veronica said in a warning tone. "You could have gotten hurt!"
"Does it look like he hurt me?" he answered with a smile, raising a hand to indicate his unmarred face. His ribs were pretty sore from hitting the coffee table, but she didn't need to know that. "Turns out I'm a better fighter than I thought."
"Well, I am a little bit impressed, Muhammad Ali, but don't make it a habit, please."
Wallace smiled, but was only half-listening as he saw Logan approach Chip Diller, sitting with some other Pi Sigs two tables away.
"So I'm trying to find out who made that video, but I'm not having much luck," Veronica chattered on. "I tried to get Dick to tell me who sent it to him, but he claims that he doesn't remember, and that he deleted the e-mail. I may use my keycard to break into the suite and look for myself."
Wallace tried to look like he was paying attention to Veronica as he tried to hear Logan's conversation with Chip.
"Whoa, dude, what happened to you?" Chip said on Logan's approach.
"You may have seen a certain NC-17 video of my ex-girlfriend making the e-mail rounds?"
Chip guffawed. "Oh yeah, everyone's seen that. Good stuff."
Wallace knew Logan was fighting every urge to punch Chip as he continued. "Well, she thinks I'm the one who did that, so she sent one of her goons to pay me back."
"And you didn't do it? Man, that sucks," Chip said sympathetically.
"Yeah, it does. So here's the deal—if I had to take the punishment, I might as well commit the crime. I need to find out who made that video so I can get the original file, because I know a few web sites that might be interested in it."
"'Cause she was involved in all that stuff with your dad, huh?" Chip suggested.
"Yeah," Logan answered, gritting his teeth. "It's about time that bitch got what she deserved." Wallace winced.
Chip laughed and gave him a high-five as Logan put on his biggest fake smile.
"I don't know who made the video," Chip said, "but I got it from Dominick Desante. He might know. He lives in Benes—he's probably home now if you want to catch up with him."
"Be careful though, man," Chip said seriously. "Veronica Mars is more dangerous than she looks. If she finds out what you're doing, she'll do a lot worse damage than that," he said, pointing to Logan's black eye.
"Believe me, I know," Logan said, clasping hands with Chip. "I can handle Veronica Mars."
"Good luck!" Chip called out cheerfully as Logan strode over to the coffee counter.
"…but the professor said he'd extend the deadline another week, so at least I can focus on the test and worry about the paper later," Veronica finished.
"Oh!" Wallace remembered she was still talking. "That's good." He watched out of the corner of his eye as Logan left the food court, coffee and Pop Tart in hand.
A few seconds later, his phone beeped with a text. "Going to talk to Desante. C u in soc."
An hour later, Wallace had settled into his seat in sociology when Logan slid into the chair next to him.
"I talked to Dominick, and while he was supportive of my plan to wreak revenge on my ex, he wouldn't tell me who made the video," Logan reported. "He said he didn't know, but I think he was lying. He was acting all shifty."
"Damn," Wallace hissed. "What do we do now?"
"Like I said before, we need to ask ourselves WWVD—What Would Veronica Do?"
Wallace thought for a minute. "Veronica would have Mac hack into the guy's e-mail to see who sent him the message."
"We can't ask Mac—she'll just tell Veronica," Logan replied.
"What about her boy?"
"Max? Good idea—he helped me with a computer thing a while back, and Mac seems to think he's pretty good at that stuff."
"And I don't think he's above a little petty crime," Wallace responded. "I know where he lives, so we can stop by there after class."
The auditorium came to a hush as the professor walked in and began his lecture. As he pulled out his notebook, Wallace remembered something he needed to tell Logan. He jotted it down and pushed the notebook in Logan's direction: "After Max's, we need to go to your place—V plans to break in to check Dick's email." Logan nodded, rolling his eyes with a sigh.
"Gentlemen!" Max said brightly as he opened his door. "What can I do for you?" They walked into Max's room as he closed the door behind them.
"We need your help with something," Wallace said.
"I'm actually having a going-out-of-business sale, so if you both need the same 'study guide,' I'll give you half off the second copy," Max began.
"You're going out of business?" Wallace asked.
"Yeah, my source in the campus IT department told me that the Hearst Powers That Be found out about my web site and they've hired a security consultant to track me down," Max explained. "I've got a couple more days until I have to shut down, because if they catch me I'll probably go to jail."
"Jail? For selling tests?" Wallace thought about what he had risked by purchasing one of Max's "study guides" a few months earlier.
"The amount of money I was earning makes it a felony instead of a misdemeanor, so, yeah—jail."
"How much could you be making?" Wallace asked.
"About six grand a month."
Wallace's eyes bugged out. "Jesus!" Logan didn't react. "That's actually a lot of money to most people, you know," Wallace said, a little snottily.
Logan narrowed his eyes. "I got that, thanks."
"Plus, I was thinking about shutting down anyway—Mac isn't thrilled about my business venture. She'd rather I used my powers for good."
"So you were gonna to give up six grand a month for your girl?" Wallace almost couldn't believe it.
"The things we do for love," Max said, smacking Logan lightly on the shoulder. "Am I right?"
"Actually, that's sort of why we're here," Logan said, clearing his throat. "But before we say anything, you have to promise us you won't tell Mac what we're doing. She'll just tell Veronica and we'll all be in trouble."
"OK…" Max said warily. "I don't know about keeping stuff from Mac, but…"
"There's this video going around," Logan began.
"I know the one," Max interjected. Wallace and Logan both frowned. "Well, I didn't watch the whole thing when I saw it was Veronica! Anyway, I heard that neither of them even knew they were being recorded."
"They didn't. So we need to find out who did it," Logan continued. "We've tracked it back to Dominick Desante, but he won't tell us anything. So we were wondering…"
"If I can hack into his e-mail and find out where he got it?" Max finished. "Heh—Veronica has Mac do this kind of stuff for her all the time. If Desante used his Hearst e-mail account, it should be pretty easy. Give me a couple days, and I'll let you know when I've got it. And I won't tell Mac, since it's for a good cause."
"Thanks, man." Logan and Wallace each entered their numbers into Max's phone, then headed back outside.
"So I guess there's not much we can do until we hear from Max," Logan sighed. "I'm thinking I might actually do some homework. I heard there was something due for sociology this week—what are we supposed to do?"
"Maybe if you showed up to class once in a while, you'd know," Wallace groused.
"Since when do you care?"
"Since I almost blew everything—my scholarship, my admission here—because I was so desperate to pass a class that I bought one of those tests. I can't fail, or I'm out of here because I won't be able to afford this place. But you just show up whenever you feel like it, because if you fail, you can just pay to take the class again, or quit college altogether and spend the rest of your life surfing or drinking or whatever else you do. You don't even have to try and everything's still going to fall into place for you."
"I'm sorry my lax attitude toward academic achievement offends you, but if you think I've got it easy because I've got money, you clearly have not been paying attention to the shithole that is my life," Logan said tersely, trying to keep his voice down so passing students wouldn't listen in. "You've got to work to keep your scholarship? Well, boo-fucking-hoo. At least you can work to get what you don't have. Do you think that if I work hard enough, Veronica will come back to me? How big of a check should I write to make my sister give a shit enough to call me on my goddamn birthday? Or to make Aaron a good dad instead of a murdering, adulterous bastard?" Logan's voice caught in his throat and got hoarse and quiet. "If I work real hard or write a big check, will my mom come back?"
"I-I didn't…" Wallace began.
"Whatever. Fuck off," Logan spat as he walked away.
Wallace stood still for a moment. Then he reached into his book bag, pulled out his phone, and dialed. "Hi, mom…Nothing, just calling to say hi…"