Beta credit goes to Sarah and Joey.
A bomb was in her car, Veronica realized, her stomach coiling as her world tilted on its axis, her mind flashing back to Penn getting in the Hyundai with his backpack. Her eyes snapped to the nightstand. 4:59. She ran to the window.
Thrown back, her body bounced onto the bed as shreds of glass and debris showered down upon her in a cloud of smoke, covering her pristine wedding dress while her mind filled with one unbearable thought.
Logan was in the car.
Her husband was—
Her body started to shake.
Logan? Where was he? Veronica wondered as her gaze wandered around the bedroom. The shreds of glass suddenly floated up into the air and altered back into a whole windowpane, setting the room in pre-bomb order.
"Veronica, wake up."
Her eyes snapped open, right up into Logan's concerned, brown gaze. She sighed in relief.
"Same dream, huh?" Logan asked, the corner of his mouth lifting into a soft smile, he leaned over her as she rubbed her still tired eyes.
"More like a nightmarish memory that refuses to be buried," Veronica replied in a weary tone as she sat up. She glanced toward the early morning sun filtering through the blinds of her father's guest bedroom. It was the start of another day closer to their one-year wedding anniversary— and one-year since she had almost lost Logan due to her own stupidity. Thank God Logan had discovered the backpack with the bomb and jumped out of the vehicle with seconds to spare, suffering only a few cracked rib and some bruises. "Was I mumbling and thrashing my head back and forth again?" she asked
Logan nodded and gave her a gentle peck on the lips. "But at least you wake up to my handsome face every time, right?" he said lightly.
She rolled her eyes as the side of her mouth corked up and she flung a pillow at him. "Why aren't you having these recurring dreams?"
"I'm just lucky, I guess." Logan grinned as he leapt from the bed. But when he spoke again, his voice was somber. "Do you think your sessions with Jane are helping any?"
"A little." Veronica shrugged. "She hasn't said anything I didn't already know— that the anniversary is less than a six weeks away and Epner's trial's soon after, you know." She flipped back the comforter and got out of bed. "But it's good to have some professional insight," she admitted. After the car bomb, Veronica had finally let down her guard and opened the door to therapy. At first, she'd allowed Logan to do most of the unloading in their joint sessions. As he talked about his past and present demons, Veronica realized that the new and improved Logan was always a work in progress.
Of course, this great insight into her husband's psyche was nothing new, but it'd made her feel like shit. She had a psychology degree for God's sake, but she'd belittled Logan's decision to seek help. And what made it worse was that she was protecting her own set of demons by refusing to welcome the new and improved Logan with opened arms.
Her demons were a part of her. They made her feel stronger like some understanding and agreeable pals who always had her back. Why would she want to get rid of them? They had made her a better detective, or so she thought. Until one moment of incompetence had almost taken what mattered to her most.
"You know, we can always change that," Logan said as he pulled a gray t-shirt over his head. "The anniversary? Our anniversary? We can renew our vows on a different date and omit last year from existence." He waved his hand from left to right to left as if wiping a slate clean. "I mean, we didn't exactly recite vows our first go around."
Veronica tilted her head to the side and sighed. "If you want to do that, we could do it. You are the one who almost died, after all."
Logan nodded like he expected that reply. "But you wouldn't?"
"I just don't want the past to dictate our future," she countered. "If we renewed our vows, I wouldn't want to have a quickie at city hall again, but that would cost a pretty penny and we need to get outta here." She flapped her arms and looked around the guest bedroom, the room inside her father's house. They'd moved in with Keith shortly after Logan was released from the hospital. A bomb-gutted apartment was no place to recover and heal according to her old man. He wouldn't take no for an answer.
Don't get her wrong, she was very grateful for her dad's warm and loving hospitality, but sharing a living space with a father, a husband, and Pony was starting to feel cramped. She wasn't a teenager anymore. She and Logan needed their own space, their own home.
Logan lifted a brow. "Veronica, you do know I do have a few pennies left. I didn't completely squander my trust fund and inheritance away, right?"
Veronica smiled and walked up to him. "Don't you think we should use those pennies to buy our own house?" she asked softly as her arms encircled his neck.
As if on cue, Keith's voice trailed up the stairs. "Veronica, I'm leaving early. I'll see you at the office! Have a good day, Logan!"
"You too, Keith!" Logan called out in a heartfelt tone that exemplified just how much his relationship with her father had grown and changed in the past year, into something that made Veronica extremely pleased. Even though Keith had long since accepted Logan as the man in his daughter's life—especially after said man pulled him out of a collision course with death—there had still been an uncertain wariness between them that didn't quite evaporate. But now living under the same roof, it would seem that they'd become the best of pals.
After the front door slammed shut, Veronica smiled up at her husband. "Awww, you're gonna miss him."
"Well, you know," Logan replied, "it's rather refreshing to have a father-in-law who's the polar opposite of my narcissistic dad who thought an impromptu birthday party could make up for his cold, killer heart."
"I can't argue that point," Veronica sighed before rising up on the tips of her toes to give him a quick peck on the lips. "You know we'll see my dad more at our place than we do now."
"Yeah, when he's not at Susan's or when she's here."
Veronica's face scrunched up. "Please let's not go there this early in the morning." She turned and headed to the bathroom. It wasn't that she didn't like Susan. She liked Susan very much and she was a good match for her dad. Susan was a very intelligent and very determined prosecutor who cared vehemently about carrying out justice with every case that crossed her desk.
The only problem that Veronica had with Keith's relationship with his significant other was the amount of PDA that they put on display. Yeah, she wasn't a teenager anymore, Veronica thought, but she still didn't need the visual of father making out and groping on the beach. Okay, maybe she had no room to talk given how touchy feely she had been with Logan, but they were married now and she'd like to believe that they were more discreet, at least in public.
"Maybe that's something you could bring up in your solo session with Jane today." Logan smirked as he leaned his shoulder against the doorframe of the bathroom.
Veronica rolled her eyes and waved her toothbrush at him. "That's at the bottom of a long list of issues and we both know it."
His smiled gentled and he shrugged. "Just a suggestion."
She rinsed out her mouth and changed the subject. "Can you make the house showing on Chestnut Avenue at five? I'll meet you there." Their realtor had already shown them three houses that didn't quite feel right for them. The houses had been either too big, too small, of too much money.
"Hmmm, I think I can pencil it in." Logan replied softly as he bent his head to meet her lips.
Yeah, this marriage business wasn't so bad," Veronica thought as his arms tightened around her waist and pulled her closer to his length.
"Well, it's nice that you're finally gracing this place with your presence," Keith called out to Veronica from his office at Mars Investigations.
Halfway to her own office, Veronica turned on her heel with a smile on her face and a Starbucks cup holder in hand. "It's only 9:05," she said, walking toward her father's desk. "Besides, I stopped to try this commercial brand of coffee that just popped up down the street." She shrugged as she placed one of two cups in front of her father.
"You do know that we have perfectly good Folgers here," Keith replied as he eyed the cup and then looked at his daughter. "It hasn't let us down yet."
"I wanted to see what all the fuss was about." Veronica smiled. "It's always good to try new things, right?"
Keith didn't respond as he took a sip of the simple black brew. After seemingly to savor the hot jolt of caffeine, he said, "Speaking of new, you guys are seeing that house this afternoon, aren't you?"
"Yep." Veronica nodded as she tried to determine his true feelings about her buying a new house with Logan. He had seemed to be supportive and happy for them, but thanks to the bombing she had been second guessing her instinctive people reading skills, even with her own father.
Some detective she was, right?
Shaking off the gloomy thoughts, Veronica said flippantly, "Don't worry, you can come over and play anytime with Logan."
Keith rolled his eyes and smiled. "He has turned out to be quite a good son-in-law, I have to admit, but as much as I'm gonna miss you both, I think it's time for us all to take a leap." He took a deep breath before continuing, "I've been thinking of asking Susan to move in with me. What do you think?"
"It's none of my business." Veronica shrugged. "I like Susan, so just as long as you keep the PDA to a minimum, it's all good."
"But that's my lot in life," her father said dryly, "to embarrass my darling daughter. Without it, what do I have left?"
She tilted her head and smirked.
The sudden swish of the front door opening caused both Veronica and Keith to turn their heads toward the reception area as a woman came into view. Veronica recognized the haggard face of Donna Anderson right away. It was a face that had been plastered across the national headlines for the past week with her signature grayish black ponytail and her weary, brown eyes.
Her seven-year-old son Ethan had seemingly vanished after he left school the bright afternoon of April 5th., It had been his last day of kindergarten before his spring break. The allure of no homework and playing with friends should have taken over his small world. Instead, Neptune swarmed with an endless parade of search parties and news vans while helicopters circled above Willshire Drive and the surrounding neighborhood where Ethan lived with his single mother.
Naturally in most missing children investigations, the police always look first at the parents for answers. Was there a history of abuse in the household? Were the parents under personal or financial strain? Was there any type of rift between the parents?
These questions had led Chief Langdon to zero in on Donna Anderson as the primary person of interest. She was a single mother struggling to make the rent on an apartment above her means. Her estranged-husband James was a highly respected naval lieutenant officer who'd been away on active duty in Afghanistan at the time of his son's disappearance. And according to the Neptune grapevine, there wasn't any love lost between the the couple. The lieutenant wanted to sue for sole custody of Ethan after finding out that his wife had been having an affair.
Veronica imagined the wheels spinning in Chief Langdon's head. She probably saw this single mother as a distressed woman who finally snapped after a long time of holding her head above the the rising flood of late notices and debt while dealing with a vengeful spouse.
It was a plausible theory, but very thin on actual evidence.
The only tangible piece of evidence was some grimy footage from a camera in the hallway of Neptune Elementary showing Ethan exiting the main door at the end of the day with an older female with a dark ponytail. The individual never faced the camera. There were also no reliable witnesses who remembered seeing the face of the possible suspect. Ethan's teacher had been busy with other students and just assumed the dark-haired woman was his mother.
The only problem was that Donna had a solid alibi. She had been waitressing at Dave's Diner and dozens of people had seen her there. Ethan's maternal grandmother had agreed to watch him after school, but when she'd arrived to pick him up, the little boy was already gone.
Without a trace.
"What can we do you for, Mrs. Anderson?" Keith asked after a moment, standing from the chair behind his desk.
"I need your help," the woman replied firmly. "I want to find my son before it's too late."
"Donna thinks that her in-laws had something to do with Ethan's disappearance and that they're getting ready to flee the country to Russia. I guess they have friends there," Veronica told her therapist later that afternoon. "But according to the chief of police, there isn't any evidence leading down that path. She's still focused on that blurred footage and has her mind set on proving that Donna was behind it."
Jane adjusted her eyeglasses on her nose and asked, "What do you think?"
"Well, there are obvious avenues that the police have ignored." Veronica shrugged. "My father agreed to take the case."
Her therapist raised a brow. "You aren't working on the case?"
She shook her head. "I already have three cases on my plate."
"Let me guess, catching two cheating husbands and one cheating wife in the act?"
"Close." Veronica sighed. "There's one cheating husband, one cheating wife, and tracking down one long lost sister."
Jane tilted her head to the side. "And those fulfill you as a PI?"
"They help pay the bills."
Jane put down her notepad on a nearby table and leaned forward in her seat. She looked Veronica straight in the eye. "Veronica, you told me how you fought to get justice for your best friend and how that propelled you to want to seek justice for others. People come to you because they think you're a good investigator."
"Yeah, the key word here is 'good' investigator."
"You cannot keep doubting yourself, you know? It has never gotten anyone anywhere. The fact that you—and the police, I might add—missed the bomb is one error that," Jane paused as if she was carefully contemplating her next words, "that 'shouldn't derail you in a job that you've been very savvy at for many years.' Those are the words from your husband, remember?"
Yeah, Veronica remembered that joint session. She only wished she held the same confidence in herself that Logan seemed to hold for her. She looked down at her hands and then back up. "But that one error almost cost me my husband on our wedding day," she said fiercely. "I just can't move past it." She had this conversation with Jane several times, but this was the first time that she actually wanted, to get past this roadblock. "I just can't make that type of error again, especially with a case where a little boy's life could be at risk."
"And what happens if that little boy's life is at risk and you could've done something to help him?"
Veronica took in a deep breath and sat back.
Logan stepped into Dave's Diner and scanned the tables, trying to locate his lunch companion whom had texted him to meet up here. His prior meeting with his new recruited security team for Congressman Maloof had made him famished.
When the congressman had come to him offering a permanent position as head of security, Logan knew that he couldn't do it single-handed since he was still technically on extended leave from the Navy. And it was more realistic to have a team looking after a high profile politician than just one man, no matter how capable and strapping that one man was, Logan smirked to himself.
Plus, he loved being The Boss.
For a guy who'd loved having things, particularly money, just handed to him growing up, it surprised even Logan how much he liked working and having a purpose, first with the Navy and now with being Head of Security for a Congressman.
Logan spotted his lunch companion and strolled over to his booth by the corner window. "Uh, interesting change in venue." He raised both his brows and smirked. "I thought we had our hearts set on pizza."
"I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone," Keith replied. "I'm just double checking a new client's alibi on the day her son went missing."
Logan slid into the opposite booth from his father-in-law. "Donna Anderson's your new client?"
"Veronica told you?"
Logan shook his head. "I'm just connecting the dots. There's only one woman in Neptune that works here with a missing son. I don't suppose Veronica's working the case, too?"
"What do you think?" Keith asked with a morose tone.
Veronica had avoided all types of risky cases this past year, but Logan knew it just wasn't like her. He actually missed the days of Veronica brushing off his concern for her safely with a witty gripe or two. Both of them already had a shit load of baggage to wade through to get to some form of happiness without a diabolical pizza guy and a car bomb literally exploding their lives into a million more pieces. God, they were married less than hour before he'd almost been blown to smithereens.
Therapy helped him work through that added trauma, but there were still many restless nights since when dark doubts crept into his head. What if he wasn't meant to have a good life? What if Veronica had been initially right not to accept his proposal? What if his life was just fucking cursed?
"What can I get you guys today?" The perky voice of a waitress pulled him back to the present.
Logan and Keith both ordered cheeseburgers and fries before Keith found an opening to ask her a few questions about the Anderson woman and then asked to speak to the manager. During the exchange, Logan sat there and took a long sip of ice water, trying to cool his thoughts.
After the waitress walked away, Keith looked over at him and narrowed his eyes. "Are you all right, Logan? You look a bit peaked."
"I was just parched," he replied, placing the glass back down. Before his father-in-law could question him further, he decided to change the subject. He reached into his coat pocket and brought out a folded piece of paper. He slid it across to the other man. "Here's the handwritten guest list you requested, but you do realize Veronica will catch on eventually without electronic evidence don't you?" He gave a half-smile.
"Oh, don't I know it." Keith laughed. "But keeping one step ahead of my daughter is half the fun in throwing this party."
Somehow Keith had gotten into his head that the newlyweds needed to have a surprise anniversary/reception party since they'd never celebrated after the ceremony last year. The later events of that day had only resonated to him how much they needed to start anew and find a source of joy.
The party was going to be three days before Logan and Veronica's actual anniversary. And according to Keith, this would give them a better day to look back upon and remember. He'd let Logan in on the surprise to help with the planning and said it would give them some bonding time.
"Keith," Logan said now, "this is an awfully nice gesture, but Veronica might not be particularly fond of it, you know." Her words from this morning came back to him. "I just don't want the past to dictate our future."
His father-in-law shrugged. Then, I'll take all the blame." He sighed. "Besides, Logan, I'm not just doing this for Veronica. I'm doing it for the both of you. In all honesty, I don't think I've shown just how grateful I am to you for saving my life all those years ago."
"It's not a debt that needs to be paid."
"I know, I know," Keith replied, holding up a hand, "but I want to. Plus, you are part of my family now."
Logan simply smiled, realizing that he actually belonged in a family that he could be proud of for the first time in his life.
Veronica pulled up to the quaint stone ranch on Chestnut Avenue. The rustic style house set off images of a mountain hideaway cabin and cozy nights curled up by a crackling fire. Her lips curved up softly as she spotted Logan leaning against the wall next to the garage, appearing to be occupied by his phone.
His head popped up as she slammed her car door shut. "You made it," he called out, stepping forward to meet her halfway up the drive.
It was only 4:55, but she was cutting it close. The good news was that she got some hard proof for a client. "I made it," Veronica said walking up to her husband, "but not before getting some great pics of an unfaithful husband literally with his pants down, trying out a new exercise technique with his personal trainer."
"That's my girl," Logan said before smacking his lips against hers. "You always get your man."
She smiled slightly. "How was your day?"
"Very productive, actually," Logan replied as they turned toward the porch to wait for the realtor. "I met up with your dad at Dave's Diner."
"Really?" Veronica asked with a note of surprise. "What were doing over there? The Congressman's office is on the opposite side of town."
"Maloof had a meeting nearby." Logan shrugged. "Anyway, your dad told me about the Donna Anderson case."
"Yeah, he went to the diner to check out her alibi."
"Well, the manager backed it up. In fact, she worked a double that day because another waitress was out sick."
Veronica nodded. "Not shocked. I mean, why would Donna come to us if we could so easily catch her in a lie?"
Her husband's mouth slowly broke out in a grin.
"You said 'us' and 'we.'"
Damn, he knew her too well, Veronica thought and then replied, "And you want to know if my spidey senses are tingling?
"Are they all tingling?" Logan made a jazz hands gesture.
Her arms flapped up and down at her sides as she sighed. "Of course, they are. A child's missing and I can't stop my mind or— my heart for that matter— from wondering what happened to him."
"Does that mean you're gonna work the case?"
"Sorry I'm late." Their realtor Lisa ran up to the porch. "I got held up at another house."
And with that, all talk about her investigating future creased for the moment as they stepped into the ranch.
At least she had a good feeling about this home.