Veronica lay trapped, pinned beneath the steering wheel of her car. If she could just twist her wrist a little more...there, her phone flipped open. A little more fiddling around in her bag and she was able to press her finger to the pad, not sure who she was calling or if they would even answer, but it was her only chance. She could feel the blood running down her face as well as feeling tired and weak, it was more the fact that she wasn't feeling any pain that concerned her. She was relieved when she heard the line connect. Whoever she'd reached picked up on the third ring.
"Well, if it isn't my arch nemesis, Veronica Mars. What cat and mouse game are we playing this time?" Veronica thought she was dreaming. She had died and this was fate, mocking her. Could she really have called Logan or was her mind screwing with her?
"Lo-gan?" It was a struggle to answer. She felt so weak.
"Veronica, what's wrong?" Strangely, hearing the panic in his voice reassured her. She knew he would come; he still cared.
"Help me," she begged.
"Veronica, Veronica!" This time, the tone in his voice frightened her; what if he couldn't hear her? Veronica tried to move so she could get her phone. If she could just…
"Veronica, please talk to me," he pleaded with her. "Yell at me...something...anything."
She tried, she really did, but he didn't seem to hear her. She finally worked her phone out of her bag, but she couldn't hold onto it and it dropped onto the seat. Logan's voice did seem louder, even if she couldn't hold the phone to her head, and she tried again to make him hear her.
"Lo-gan. Help me."
"Oh, thank God, Ronnie, you need to tell me where you are." She could hear the relief in his voice. It was softer, the way he used to sound when he talked to her.
Veronica tried to remember where she was. "Down. In my car. Logan, he ran me off the road."
"Who ran you off the road, V, please? Where are you? What road?"
Veronica tried to swallow the dryness in her throat. She felt so tired. "Off the 5, National City. In Sweetwater. Please help me."
Not wanting to disconnect the call, Logan made his way back to the pool and snatched Dick's phone sitting on the lounge chair. "Hey man, what gives?" Dick asked, but Logan ignored him as he dialed 9-1-1. He relayed what little information he had to the dispatcher, waving Dick off as he ran for his truck with both phones.
"Ronnie, we're coming for you. Talk to me. Are you hurt?"
He didn't think he'd ever been so scared in his life, no matter how horrible Aaron could be. What was she doing in National City? And was she in Sweetwater? Had she been in Tijuana?
"It doesn't hurt. I know I've got a cut on my head; I can feel the blood. But I can't move. My legs are pinned."
Logan knew exactly where she was. There was an In and Out and a Denny's at that exit. It was his preferred spot to stop and get food on the way back from a night in TJ. Shortly after getting off the 5, the road crossed over Sweetwater River. Luckily, it wasn't much of a river, but the idea of her trapped in her car in the water made him queasy.
"I'm coming, V, but I'm about half an hour away. The paramedics will be there before I am. You're gonna be okay."
"Can you talk to me?" Her voice was tiny, so different from what he was used to hearing from her these days.
"Okay. Why don't you tell me what you were doing down there, V?" He tried to keep his voice calm so he wouldn't scare her anymore than she already was.
"I was following a lead, but he followed me instead." She started to cry and his hands clenched around his steering wheel. "I should have stayed on the 5."
He couldn't argue with that, but when the crying stopped and she fell silent, the panic set in again.
"Ronnie? You still with me? I need you to talk to me."
"I hear them, Lo. The sirens. They're close." He'd been barrelling down the 5 as fast as he could, sure he would get to her in half the time the trip normally took.
"I told them right where to find you, V. I'm on my way." Logan hit the gas just a little harder.
Veronica walked into the dive bar heading towards the bartender. This was the third bar she had been to and she wasn't having much luck with anything other than drawing attention to herself. Her petite stature ensured she looked out of place.
"We don't serve milk and cookies here, little lady."
With a sarcastic grimace and a head tilt, she pulled a photo out of her pocket.
"I'm not here for a snack. I'm looking for someone. Seen him before?" She held it out and he leaned down to take a look.
"Maybe. Daddy didn't come home last night so you thought you'd come look for him?"
She wasn't getting anywhere. "Something like that. Have you seen him or not?"
"He comes in occasionally. Hadn't seen him in a while though." The bartender moved away, turning to a scruffy looking drunk at the end of the bar. "Tito, you seen Russo lately?" Tito shook his head without even lifting it from staring at the drink in front of him. "Sorry, kid."
This guy had vanished. She'd wasted a tank of gas, not to mention her time. She got in her car and headed back onto the 5. She spent the first several minutes of the drive chastising herself for taking on this dead-end case, but when Veronica stopped dwelling on her misfortune, she'd spied a car behind her. She'd tried to determine if it was following her by taking the next exit off the interstate. She realized she'd made a mistake when the car rammed into the back of the Le Baron and sent her over the embankment toward Sweetwater River.
Logan sat in the emergency room waiting area, holding Veronica's messenger bag. He'd used her phone to call Keith, but when the voicemail kicked in, he hung up instead of leaving a message, not sure what he should say. Her phone had been locked, but he'd tried her old password, 7669—the word pony in numbers—and grinned as the phone unlocked and showed him an old picture of Veronica and Lilly mugging for a selfie. He flipped through her text messages and realized that Keith was in Las Vegas on a case. It seemed most likely that he was inside a casino where his phone wouldn't work.
When he'd arrived at the scene, the EMT's were already loading Veronica into the ambulance.
"Logan!" He barely heard her weak voice calling for him and ran to her side, blanching at the blood matting her hair and staining her face. Like Lilly.
"Ronnie, you're gonna be okay." He wasn't sure if he was trying to convince himself or her, but he reached for her hand and squeezed it. She was so cold, but her fingers clutched on his.
"You the guy who called this in?" an EMT asked.
Logan turned his attention away from her long enough to confirm it. "Yeah, she called me and told me where she was, so I called you guys."
"Nice work, both of you. Miss, is it okay if I give him your belongings for safekeeping?"
To Logan's surprise, she gave a single, slow nod. "Yeah," she replied. Her eyelids drooped and her voice started to slur. "I think he's the old Logan today. I can trust him." Her eyes slid shut and the grip on his hand went slack.
"We're gonna take her to Sharp Chula Vista Hospital. Not sure you can follow us, but we really need to get going." With that, they lifted Veronica the rest of the way into the ambulance and pulled the door shut, leaving Logan standing there. He ran back to his truck and took off in the direction the ambulance had gone. They were easier to follow when he didn't acknowledge the traffic laws. The scene had been bad. She'd been run off the road into the river but instead of hitting the water she'd hit the only pillar on the way down. As he sat in the waiting room, hoping to hear something, he began looking through the rest of the bag. She had a file on a guy named Frank Russo. What the hell? She was chasing a bail jumper accused of assaulting his wife! Any reservations he might have had about snooping through her stuff disappeared. How could her dad let her do this kind of work? He was sifting through the paperwork in the file, getting angrier at Keith Mars with every detail about Frank Russo that he read, when her phone rang. Logan glanced at the caller ID on the screen. Dad. He sneered at the phone and flipped it open, then raised it to his ear.
"Fire up the grill, honey, we're having steaks tonight!" The excited voice rang through the phone.
"Mr. Mars," Logan said coldly.
"Who is this?" The excitement morphed immediately to suspicion.
"It's Logan Echolls, Mr. Mars."
"Logan? Where's Veronica? She didn't tell me she was having a group over studying."
Hold on...he thought she was studying? "Uh, no, Mr. Mars. We're not studying."
"What's going on, Logan? Where is Veronica?"
"Sharp Chula Vista Hospital." Logan was blunt.
"Sharp Chula…?" Keith sounded confused. He didn't seem to understand what Logan was trying to tell him.
"There was an accident. I've been waiting to hear something." Logan felt strangely calm as the confusion and panic increased in Keith's voice.
"What kind of an accident, son?" Keith asked
"This case she was working on...someone ran her off the road."
"WHAT? What case? Logan, just what has my daughter been up to?"
"I'm not sure, sir, I only know what she told me when she called me for help, and from what's in this file she has in her bag. I figured you'd already know what this was about."
"I have no idea what is going on, Logan; you can trust me on that."
"Okay, well, when you get here, you might be able to decipher it for yourself."
"I will. Thanks, Logan, I'll be there as quick as I can. Tell her I'm coming."
The call ended before Logan could tell him that she was still with the doctors, and Logan sat back, throwing the phone into the bag on the seat next to him. He rested his head on the wall behind him and closed his eyes, letting his mind wander. Mr. Mars hadn't known what Veronica had been up to. He felt slightly guilty for exposing her secrets, but he honestly thought this had been a family business and he was letting his daughter get into these situations.
"Mr. Echolls?" Logan sat up, blinking in confusion. He must have fallen asleep. An older man wearing hospital scrubs was kneeling in front of him.
"Mr. Echolls, did you happen to get in touch with her family?" the doctor asked him.
"Uh, yeah. Her dad is on his way. He was in Las Vegas so it's going to take him some time. Is she okay?"
The doctor glanced around the waiting room and leaned in, talking to him softly. "She's going to have a long recovery ahead of her, but she is alive and she will get better. It's just going to take some time." The doctor stood, glancing around the room again. "It's late, and I shouldn't be doing this, but it says her only family is her dad and, as you said, it's going to take some time for him to get here if he was in Las Vegas. Would you like to come see her before we put her in her own room?"
Logan nodded. "Um, thanks." He stood up and grabbed her bag before following the doctor down the hall.
The doctor stopped in front of the recovery room, motioning for Logan to enter ahead of him.
"She's going to be in here for about an hour. Once she's awake, they'll move her to a private room. You can go in if you want to sit with her."
"Thanks, Doctor." Logan walked into the room, wincing at the sight of Veronica lying in the oversized hospital bed. She looked even smaller than usual. She was hooked up to a couple of beeping machines and she had all these tubes connected to her. She had casts on both legs and a bandage wrapped around her head. There were a few cuts and bruises visible to him. She looked so fragile. He slowly walked into the room, setting her bag on the ledge next to the window. He moved a chair over to her bedside and sat down. He started to reach for her hand, but pulled away, rubbing his hands on his thighs.
"You can touch her. She won't break." Logan looked up to see the doctor leaning in the doorway, arms crossed, watching him.
"I'm not sure about that. She looks pretty broken already. I don't want to hurt her."
The doctor smiled kindly. "You'll be fine."
Logan focused his attention back to the broken girl in the hospital bed, taking a deep breath before reaching for her hand again. It wasn't really that he thought he would break her. The past eight months had proven that he couldn't. It was more about if she would want him to be there. They weren't friends anymore, but she had called him, as if she knew he would be there despite what they were now, not friends, more like frenemies. He didn't know what was happening; all he knew is that he would rather have her alive to fight with than be gone from his life forever.
He sat silently beside her, stroking his thumb across the back of her hand. Being here with her, knowing that she could have died tonight, made him realize that the past few months had been a complete waste of time, driven by his grief. He had spent all this time trying to tear her down, blaming her for the shambles of his life, but seeing her like this, all he wanted to do was put her back together and keep her safe. She was the only thing that made him feel alive. As he sat beside her, listening to the machines beep and watching her breathe, he resolved that everything was going to change. He was going to prove himself to be the same Logan she could depend on before Lilly's death.