It was seven-fifteen on the dot when Veronica left her apartment and walked down the stairs and toward the parking lot. Sure enough, there was a car there that wasn’t familiar and sitting in the drivers seat was a tired-looking Faith. Veronica walked around to the passenger door and opened it to find a McDonalds bag waiting on her seat. She looked up to Faith who was busy scarfing down an Egg McMuffin and raised an eyebrow.
“You brought me breakfast?” she asked.
“Thought it’d be rude if I sat here chowing down and didn’t bring anything for you.”
Veronica lifted the bag and sat down, closing the door behind her. When she was all settled in, she peeked inside the bag and found another Egg McMuffin and a hash brown. Her cup of coffee was already waiting in the cup holder.
“Got it with two sugars,” Faith said. “Was gonna get you O.J. cos they say coffee stunts growth, but uh . . . I think that’s already a lost cause with you, huh.”
Veronica paused mid-bite and glared over at Faith.
“Size jokes already? Really?”
“Too early?” At Veronica’s nod, Faith continued. “Fine, I’ll save ‘em for the way home.”
They quietly ate their breakfast, Faith tucking away twice as much as Veronica did.
“Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I got up early enough to have McDonalds breakfast?” Faith asked, not actually expecting an answer.
“Years. Plus it’s not like they exactly served stuff like this in . . .” Faith stopped speaking and slowly chewed another bite of her sandwich, careful not to look in Veronica’s direction.
Veronica was actively watching her now though, curious about her near slip up. She raised her eyebrow in question but Faith continued to ignore her.
“So, school?” Faith finally asked around a mouthful as she tossed the wrapper in the back seat.
“That’s the plan. But first you might want to wave to my father so he doesn’t think you’re some kind of weird abductor who’s force-feeding his only daughter take-out and stealing her away into the . . . day.”
Faith looked up, her eyes wide, and spotted Keith looking down at them from the small balcony. She looked at Veronica who was busy waving, then looked back to her dad and gave a quick, awkward wave.
“I told him you’re a new student,” Veronica said and Faith sighed with relief. “If he were to start sniffing around and find out you’re a Fitzpatrick, it would be the end of whatever this is. A little lie buys us some time.”
“Yeah, just a little lie,” Faith said sarcastically as she began to back the car out of the spot.
“Trust me, it’s easier this way.”
“Well, you ain’t given me a reason not to trust ya yet so I’m gonna believe whatcha say. I hope that goes both ways.”
Veronica thought about it for a second and nodded. “It does. You’re trying to keep me out of trouble and you’re not benefitting from it so far as I can tell.”
“I’m not,” Faith said evenly, her gaze fixed on the road before them. “If I can keep my cousins outta trouble and you at the same time? I consider that a good day, even if you’re draggin’ me outta bed at the asscrack of dawn to do it.”
“I ache for you, I really do,” Veronica said playfully. “Sleeping in until noon and hanging out in a bar with a bunch of your drunk buddies all day must be really, really tiring. How do you do it?”
“Years of practice,” Faith replied with a grin.
They continued their light banter until they’d reached the school. Faith put the car in park but left it running, a clear and very relieving sign for Veronica that she wasn’t about to follow her in and play shadow all day long.
“What time should I be back at?” Faith asked, her hands resting casually over the steering wheel at her crossed wrists.
She looked anything but casual though, her eyes fixed at some point across the school yard. Her jaw was clenched and Veronica fully expected to turn and see someone harpooning a baby seal off in the distance. Instead she saw Weevil standing at the front entrance, arms casually crossed over his chest as he stared over at them. There was no way of getting around it; he was waiting to talk to her.
“Class ends at two but I have a shift at Java The Hut at two-thirty. I can catch a ride with my friend Mac though so you don’t have to be at my beck and call.”
Veronica watched as Faith narrowed her eyes at Weevil but then glanced over at her, plastering on a smile that didn’t quite meet her eyes.
“Ain’t a big deal,” Faith said. “Gonna go back home and catch a few more z’s but I’ll be back at two.”
“Are you sure?” Veronica asked. She was starting to feel pretty guilty about this whole thing. It was pretty obvious that she was going to start cramping Faith’s lifestyle pretty quickly.
Glancing back toward Weevil again, Faith nodded. “Positive.”
“Alright. I’ll see you at two.”
Veronica got out of the car without saying anything else and closed the door behind her. She took a deep breath and steeled herself; unless she was going to walk around the school and go through the back entrance she had to walk right past Weevil. Just as she was about to take a step in his direction, she heard the car door open and close. She looked over and saw Faith stepping out of the car, not to talk to Veronica but to lean casually – or maybe threateningly – against the hood of the car. Faith’s gaze was locked on Weevil and she copied his casual stance, her arms crossed over her chest and her biceps flexed to show their perfect definition.
Yep, definitely threateningly.
“Aren’t you gonna be late?” Faith asked, not looking at Veronica as she addressed her.
“Yes, but I can’t take the suspense of knowing if a Michael Jackson ‘Beat It’ dance off is about to go down. You can’t possibly expect me to go and sit in Calculus if you’re gonna be out here busting fresh moves with the locals.”
And as she’d hoped would happen, Faith finally gave up her stare down with Weevil and looked over with an eyebrow raised.
“You sure you’re only eighteen? You quip like a pro.”
“It’s a natural talent,” Veronica replied with a playful shrug, then changed the subject. “The point of dropping someone off is that you get to leave once they’re dropped off, you know.”
“Yeah, I got the memo,” Faith replied. “Leavin’ soon as you do, chica.”
Giving Faith a small wave, Veronica took a deep breath and began to walk up the long walkway that led to the entrance. When she reached the door where Weevil was standing and still hadn’t heard the car pull away, she pressed her lips together tightly and tried to angle her body in a way so that Faith couldn’t see her face.
“Glad to see your new girlfriend is the chivalrous kind,” he said sarcastically.
“Oh Weevil, you’re only bitter because I land hotter babes than you do,” Veronica quipped, not bothering to get into a denial battle with him. Not with Faith watching them from the parking lot. “I’m working until eight-thirty tonight. If you need to talk to me, you’ll have to come see me there.”
She didn’t bother to stick around for his reply. Even though she was supposed to be lying low and not getting involved with either the Fitzpatricks or the PCHers, she couldn’t help but want to hear Weevil out. If there was any way she could stop the town from going down some kind of terrible spiral of badness, she was going to do whatever she could to do that.
Even if it meant keeping Faith in the dark just a little.
Feeling a bit guilty for giving Weevil an opportunity to speak to her without Faith being around, Veronica looked over her shoulder and at the old car still sitting in the parking lot. Faith was sitting inside of it now rather than leaning against it. The brunette gave her a long knowing look before nodding and taking off, disappearing from Veronica’s sight in just a few moments.
Taking a deep breath, Veronica adjusted her backpack and entered the school.
Veronica walked out into the schoolyard at about quarter after two, having been held up by a teacher who wanted to speak to her about an assignment she’d handed in the day before. The buses full of students had left already and the usual commotion of the day had mostly died down. Only a handful of students lingered on the lawn and in the parking lot. She looked out into the lot for the car Faith had driven this morning but couldn’t seem to pick it out among the others.
“Lookin’ for me?” came a voice form off to her side.
Veronica looked over and saw Faith strolling across the lawn with a can of Pepsi in one hand and a half-eaten apple in the other. She looked every bit the casual student right down to her jeans and t-shirt.
“Looks like you were looking for me first,” Veronica noted and Faith shrugged.
“Got here early. Got bored. Went for a stroll.” She took another huge bite out of the apple and tossed the core into the metal garbage can to the side with a loud ping.
“You didn’t happen to find Weevil on your stroll, did you,” Veronica asked. “Because I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of rules about not beating people up on school property.”
“I didn’t, but that’s only because I couldn’t find him,” Faith winked. “He give you a hard time earlier?”
“Nope, not at all. He was waiting there for some other teenage detective,” Veronica lied.
Faith studied her face but didn’t say anything. If she knew Veronica was lying, she didn’t say anything, but Veronica was sure it would come back and bite her on the ass at some point. Stuff like that always did.
“Uh-huh,” Faith finally replied skeptically after a few moments. “You ready to go? Don’t want you to be late for work on my account.”
“Ready as ever,” Veronica replied cheerfully.
They walked to the car in silence and pretty much stayed that way the entire way to the café. When they reached their destination Veronica noticed the motorcycle parked outside – Weevil’s – and winced, hoping Faith hadn’t noticed it. But as Faith pulled over to a parking spot rather than in front of the door and put the car in park, Veronica knew that Faith had indeed seen the motorcycle and that she had no intent of just leaning against the car and waiting this time.
“Faith, it’s fine,” Veronica began. “You don’t have to come in; I can deal with him and send him on his way.”
“Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about,” Faith said innocently though it was apparent she knew what Veronica had meant. “Just wanna get one of those tasty scones. No way was that apple enough.”
Faith got out of the car, ignoring the pleading look Veronica was giving her. Veronica watched as she walked around and opened up her door, grinning down at her.
“C’mon, V. I’ll behave, scout’s honor.”
“I highly doubt your scoutiness,” Veronica mumbled as she stepped out of the car, letting Faith close the door behind her.
“But not my honor? Wicked,” Faith replied with a chuckle. “This whole Good Samaritan deal is really workin out for me, huh.”
“Like a charm,” Veronica said. She heard Faith chuckle again as they began to walk toward the front entrance, bypassing the line of young people who were waiting to be seated.
She pulled her apron from her bag and tied it on before stashing her bag under the hostess podium. As Faith walked over to the counter and had a seat on one of the stools, Veronica grabbed a few menus and led the first group of people to a table at the far corner of the café. When they were seated and situated, she excused herself and turned to walk back to her station but came face to face with Logan and Weevil who were already seated at adjacent tables and waiting for her.
“What am I, flypaper for people who only ever need favors from me?” she asked aloud.
Weevil sat forward and put his elbows on the small round table, his gaze intense as he stared up at Veronica.
“You said to come see you at work if I had to talk to you. Well here I am, ready to talk.”
“It’ll have to wait for a few minutes, we’re swamped,” Veronica said, indicating the line at the door. “Order something. I’ll be back around.”
Not giving him a chance to argue with her, she made her way back over to the podium and grabbed a few more menus. More people had walked up while she’d been seating the previous group and the line was even longer now. Part of her was relieved for that; the longer she stayed busy, the longer she could avoid talking to Weevil and figure out what to do about Faith.
Stealing a nervous glance over to the counter, she noticed that Faith was sitting with her back against the counter, both elbows resting back on it as she glared in Weevil’s direction. She looked like a rubber band that was about to snap. Not a good sign.
Sighing to herself, Veronica turned to the next group of customers and planted on a fake smile. She led them over to a nearby table of four and got them situated and when she looked up, she noticed that Faith was no longer at the counter. Quickly scanning the restaurant, she noticed that Weevil and Logan were still there which meant that Faith couldn’t have scared them away yet.
When someone tapped on her shoulder, Veronica nearly jumped a mile high. She spun around quickly and came face to face with Faith who was grinning at her.
“Scare ya?” Faith asked.
“No, I regularly jump up in surprise for no reason whatsoever. Why aren’t you silently stalking from the counter?”
“Because I need to silently use the bathroom first. Where can I find it?”
Veronica exhaled and ran a hand through her hair, then pointed to the door in the front corner of the shop where the employees entered the kitchen.
Faith thanked her and made her way through the crowded café, disappearing behind the door a few moments later. She noticed Weevil perk up, expecting his chance to speak to her, but instead she want back to the long line at the entrance and continued to seat people.
It took her about fifteen minutes to get caught up with the line at the door and clearing a few dishes off the tables, but when she was done she looked over to Faith who was back at the counter having some coffee and had been keeping tabs on her the whole time. She nodded her head toward the back corner where Weevil and Logan were still sitting and pretending not to know each other. Faith got the idea and nodded, then got up and made her way over to join her.
Why she hadn’t thought of some rascally way to get rid of Faith so that she could talk to Weevil in private, she had no idea, but she figured it had something to do with their conversation about trust earlier. Now that she knew she had Faith’s, she had to let Faith know that she had hers as well.
They met at the foot of Weevil’s table and he looked up from his piece of pie, first at Faith and then at Veronica.
“You can call off your dog, Veronica. I’m not gonna bite,” he said.
Faith bristled. “I’m sorry, did baldy here just call me a dog?”
“Of the female variety,” Weevil added and Veronica had to put her hand on Faith’s bicep to stop her from whatever she’d been about to do next.
“That’s enough. I don’t get paid to babysit, I get paid to investigate.” She directed her attention toward Weevil. “I’d guess you have maybe two minutes before I’m pulled back to the mediocre world of hostessing. What’ve you got for me?”
Weevil glared at Faith for a second longer before looking up at Veronica. “I need you to bug the confessional at St. Mary’s church.”
Veronica did a double-take when she looked at him and chuckled aloud.
“I’m sorry, did you just tell me to go to hell? Because that’s what’s going to happen if I do that!”
“It’s the only place the Fitzpatricks and the PCHers hang together,” Logan said.
“Tall, dark and chinless has a point,” Faith said thoughtfully. “Patrick ain’t exactly involved in family politics but he has a laundry list of shit mistakes in his past.”
“Who’s Patrick?” Veronica asked, looking over to Faith.
“My cousin, and the priest at St. Mary’s.”
“Cousin? You’re hanging out with the Fitzpatricks now, V?” Weevil asked, his face screwing up with distaste as he looked Faith up and down.
“It’s . . . a thing,” Veronica said, waving her hand dismissively. “It doesn’t matter. Why do you think it’s him?”
Weevil sighed and took a deep breath. “Because it’s the only thing that fits. You ever been to church, Veronica?”
“Actually I have, and I don’t quite remember the priest handing out illegal drugs with the communion wafers!” She said, clearly frustrated.
“Which is where the confessional comes in,” Weevil replied, his gaze unwavering as he glanced back at Veronica. “And the only way we can know for sure what’s goin’ on is if you bug it.”
Veronica rubbed her forehead with her fingertips. Were it not for the reassuring hand Faith rested on her lower back, she may have just walked away in frustration.
“Listen, if you really think the PCHers are getting the drugs from Father Fitzpatrick, I’ll help find out the truth, but there’s a condition.” When no one said anything, she continued. “No bug. I’ll set up a camera but that’s it. No audio or no deal.”
No one said anything but Weevil and Logan shared a look, then Weevil looked up at Veronica and nodded.
“Confession is every day from four until six.”
“It’ll have to wait until my shift is over,” she replied and then looked over at Faith. “Mind taking a detour on the way home so I can snoop on your family?”
“Easiest job I’ve had all day,” Faith said with a wink.
Veronica smiled at her and, with the mission set and the conversation seemingly over, turned around and went back to work. Faith went back to her spot at the counter and stayed there all night long, sipping on coffee while waiting for Veronica’s shift to end. She looked so calm and collected and Veronica had to wonder how she was managing that. They were about to head into the belly of the beast, or the throat at the very least, and she couldn’t feel anything but fear and regret for agreeing to go in the first place.
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