vanessagalore: (!Precipitation)
[personal profile] vanessagalore
TITLE: Peregrination (13/?)
AUTHOR: vanessagalore
CHARACTERS: Veronica, Logan, Keith
WORD COUNT: 6,366
RATING:
PG13/R for this chapter
SUMMARY:
Sometimes it's best to just get the hell out of Dodge. Set right after 'The Bitch Is Back'.
SPOILERS:
Spoilers for the whole series, especially season 3.
WARNINGS:
Cursing.
DISCLAIMER:
I don't own any rights to Veronica Mars. This story is written as a tribute only. Beta'd by boobsnotbombs and zaftig_darling. All remaining errors are my responsibility.

1~Precipitation 2~Precarious 3~Paranoia 4~Prevarication 5~Probation 6~Predicament 7~Paradox 8~Please 9~Perilous 10~Palpitation 11~Precipice 12~Perspiration

RECAP OF THE FIRST TWELVE CHAPTERS: (Highlight to read ~OR~ click here to skip directly to the new chapter)

Keith loses the election. Gory breaks into Logan's suite at the Neptune Grand, breaking the fish sculpture and peeing on Logan's bed, and Keith finds out that Vinnie and the DA plan to pursue felony charges against him. They realize that any investigation will cause Veronica's B&E at the Kane mansion to come to light as well. Veronica, Logan, and Keith decide to flee Neptune, and they lay numerous fake trails and drive to the east in a slightly illegal car provided by Weevil.

Once they're on the road, the dismal reality of life on the run begins to sink in. Logan reveals that he's on probation for beating up Mercer and Moe in the Neptune jail. Keith, feeling Logan is endangering them, wants Logan to go on his own, but Veronica chases after Logan, and Keith reluctantly decides to keep going as a team. Logan tells them about his preliminary hearing and his plea agreement, and Veronica realizes that the party in Aspen when Logan slept with Madison was right before Logan's hearing. They reach out to Cliff back in Neptune and find out that Vinnie has filed charges for Keith's crimes, and, more ominously, Gory has filed a complaint on Logan for having assaulted him in the food court. Logan's probation has officially been revoked, and both he and Keith are listed on the NCIC computer system used by law enforcement.

When Keith leaves on a mysterious errand, Logan and Veronica comfort each other, talking about some of their mistakes and misunderstandings. Keith returns, reeking of scotch, with newspapers and tabloids, and they search for any mention of themselves. But they've been pushed off the front page by the escapades of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, and the only mention is a small article about Logan in the 'Weekly World News', a trashy tabloid. Later that night, Logan and Veronica find each in the motel bathroom and reunite, in an episode fraught with tentativeness and memories of old times, bad and good.

Keith privately tells Veronica he knows about the bathroom encounter, and is surprisingly calm—on the surface. He tells Logan and Veronica that he feels that they haven't been cautious enough, and they will not only have to work harder on their disguises, but he is also purchasing weapons for all three of them. They split up, and when Keith and Veronica go to pick up Logan, they see him being arrested, while an elderly woman is being treated by paramedics.

Keith and Veronica mount a daring rescue of Logan. With Veronica driving, they flee the scene. They successfully manage to trick the police into thinking they're heading east on the highway, but instead backtrack to a parking garage not far from where Logan was arrested. They steal a new car, Keith dresses as a woman, and Logan and Veronica hide in the trunk so they can get through the police roadblocks. In the trunk, Veronica explains to Logan that they'll be splitting up, each of them taking zigzagging routes via Greyhound, hoping to meet up in a few days in Chapel Hill, NC. The heat builds up quickly in the car, and they're forced to stop when Veronica begins showing symptoms of heat stroke.




A sharp poke in my ribs interrupts my dozing. "Louann...rest stop. Do you want to stretch your legs?"

I open my gritted, aching eyes and smile at the young woman next to me. "You bet. I tell you what, my butt feels like a twenty-pound ham on Christmas mornin'."

Blend in. Hide in plain sight. Be careful, and always be watching. Stay alive. Dad's last instructions to me before he left me at the Greyhound bus terminal in Shreveport, Louisiana. So I was Louann, Southern belle, on the way to visit my great-aunt in Tulsa. My seat mate, Charlene, was only going as far as Mena, Arkansas, which was perfect, because I was planning on missing my connection one stop later in Fort Smith and heading to Nashville instead. I didn't want anyone noting that I hadn't made it on board the bus I was supposed to be on.

I'd always found it easy to mimic the accents around me, so when I'd heard Charlene ordering her ticket in front of me at the bus terminal, I'd slipped into my new persona and introduced myself. I'd hoped the casual observer would assume I was one of two girls traveling together, not one-third of the desperate trio of criminals who'd eluded a police manhunt in El Dorado. The eyes of the security guard at the Shreveport terminal had slid right over me as I sat down next to Charlene in the molded plastic chairs.

Charlene was visiting a new boyfriend, so her conversation was focused on the course of true young love, exhaustingly examined and thoroughly parsed for meaning. "How about you?" she had asked after finally stopping for a breath. "Anybody special in your life?"

"I'm not really sure. Circumstances are a little...complicated right now." I'd berated myself. Too close to the truth. I'd hurried to fill in the details. "I'm just out of a relationship and, even though I like this one guy, I think I need to be alone for a little while."

For instance, for just about the time of a zigzagging cross-country trip by Greyhound.

"I know exactly what you mean!" Charlene had exclaimed. She had then launched into a description of her entire romantic history, starting with her first kiss in seventh grade ("what a loser") and ending several weeks ago, when her current paramour, a freshman at Rich Mountain Community College, had accompanied her to her senior prom, including an overnight stay at the Shreveport Holiday Inn.

While Charlene had talked excitedly about Billy this, and Billy that, I'd kept one eye on CNN, playing on the television screens in the bus terminal. Closed captioning told me that a tri-state manhunt was underway for the three desperate criminals from California who'd been in El Dorado for some unknown nefarious purpose. I almost gasped when Vinnie's smug face popped up on the TV screen and delivered a sound bite 'live from Neptune, California'. I'd covered my slip with a cough, but Charlene had kept talking blithely about her upcoming visit to Billy and hadn't noticed.

Then the daughter of the elderly woman Logan had saved was interviewed. She insisted that her mother's life had been spared by his quick actions and declared that he was a hero. The newscaster closed his coverage with a snarky remark about a criminal with a heart of gold. As I silently fumed, his ditzy blonde colleague laughed and made a comment that closed captioning didn't catch.

It had been an hour of anxiety at the terminal while I waited for my bus. Before we'd split up, I'd acted as lookout in the park while Dad had shaved Logan's head. Then I'd used a Sharpie to draw ominous-looking 'tattoos' on his arms, neck, and skull. Logan Echolls, neo-Nazi skinhead. The new look worked well enough with the fatigues and green T-shirts that Logan had picked up at Walmart.

The new disguise didn't reassure me at all, but Dad had said that if Logan maintained an angry look on his face, while carefully keeping out of trouble, that people would avert their eyes and remember only the Germanic cross on the side of his neck rather than his features. Without my expertise in accents, Dad had advised him to stick to grunts and nods and to pick up appropriately right-wing reading material for his journey.

Logan was to head south at first on his zigzags, starting from Houston and avoiding Arkansas altogether, while I would go north, perhaps as far north as Cleveland, Ohio or New York City. Dad was going to backtrack all the way to Dallas and then head straight to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with only a couple transfers along the way. As I was gazing at the route map in the Shreveport terminal, halfheartedly listening to Charlene's romantic woes, I had realized that we might even cross each other's paths on our zigzags due to the hub system used by Greyhound.

The bus slows down, and, accompanied by the click-click of his turn signal, the driver announces over the intercom, "Texarkana. Fifteen minute rest stop, y'all. I ain't comin' to find you, so be back on board on time." Almost before the bus has come to a complete stop, the driver jumps up and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. The moment his feet hit the pavement outside the bus, he flicks a lighter to a cigarette and begins inhaling great lungfuls of smoke. Several passengers, obviously other smokers, are right behind, and they form an impromptu smoking section beside the bus.

The rest of us file off the bus in a more orderly fashion. I keep my backpack pulled tightly against me, mindful of my large bundle of cash and a very lethal weapon wrapped in a couple T-shirts. As we pass the nicotine brigade, I'm assaulted by the cloud of blue smoke. Charlene whispers, "It's always like that on this route. The chain-smokers have a tough time between stops. At least there aren't any crying babies on this leg."

There's a general rush to the counter to procure junk food and soda. Charlene excuses herself. I tamp down a sudden craving for Doritos and select a plastic-wrapped turkey sandwich, a bottle of water and an apple. I've got to take care of myself, eat as well as I can and take catnaps when it's safe. The next few days of bus ride after bus ride will take a toll.

After I've paid for my purchases, Charlene rejoins me. "Well, aren't you healthy? No wonder you have such a darlin' figure. Think I'm going to get one of them burritos." Charlene is bottle-blonde and full-figured, with soft pink flesh struggling to break free in the gap between her low-cut jeans and a midriff-exposing blouse. I follow her finger as she points out a display of cheesy tortilla-esque items swimming in grease that would only be called 'burritos' by a non-Mexican.

"Mmm," I manage, although my stomach heaves a little and my headache pounds. I'm still a little under the weather from my embarrassing bout with heat stroke. Normally I'd be all over those slimy delectables like amarillo on arroz con pollo.

"Want me to hold your sandwich while you go to the little girl's room?" she offers.

"No, that's okay. I'll stick it in my backpack." My accent slips a little, to my chagrin. "Thank yew, though. Mighty nice'a you," I say, recovering. "See you back on the bus."

In the stall, I drop my head into my hands and allow myself the luxury of a thirty-second freak-out. I hate everything about this, the small talk with Charlene, the put-on accent, the ridiculous little girl outfit, and most of all being alone and worrying how Logan is coping due to his inexperience. Waves of fear wash over me when I think about Logan's face on every television screen in Arkansas. Our skinhead disguise for him seems feeble, but there wasn't time for anything better.

My eyes screwed shut, I tell myself over and over again that Dad had sworn that he was going to get us through this, and that I believe he can do it. I emerge and splash water on my face, smiling as easily as I can at the lady at the next basin.

A few minutes later, we're back on the bus as the sun dips below the horizon. It's a gorgeous sunset, nature having missed the memo on pathetic fallacy. Puffy clouds have gathered to reflect pink and purple hues above the tree line. Flat terrain, unbelievably uniform, as far as the eye can see. Tendrils of fire scorch the sky as the sun etches its departure. There's a last sliver of lava beyond the shadow-blackened trees, and then the sky inexorably deepens through slate blue to charcoal.

I realize that Charlene hasn't said anything for a few minutes, and sure enough, she's dropped off, her head nodding, in the seat beside me. The white dashed lines on the road rush to meet us, with a rhythmic hump as we pass over the regularly spaced road seams. There are no streetlights and no reflective chips embedded in the roadway, so all I see are the bus's headlights pushing the darkness away.

A few people have turned on overhead lights to read, and reflected in the bus windows are our ghosts, floating beside the bus. There is a gentle murmur of conversation overlaying the constant rumble of the bus's engine mixed with the whine of our tires, and I'm lulled to sleep.

***

I'm chasing Logan in my dream, tracking his cellphone. The display on my phone beeps every time he moves, which isn't right. I know it isn't right. Still, I'm walking faster and faster, but the blip stays just ahead on-screen and I can't catch up, even when I start to run.

"Louann. You're having some dream there, all twitching and muttering!" Charlene comments. "We're almost to my stop, anyways."

"Huh?" I'm still in my dream, confused as to why I can't catch Logan and who the hell is Louann.

The bus slows and veers right. With a pneumatic hiss, the doors open and the driver calls, "Mena, Arkansas. Fifteen minute rest stop. Back on the bus by 10:25, folks." Again, he makes a beeline for the smokers' 'lounge' along with all the other nicotine fiends.

"Bye, sweetie. Good luck with that guy...you know, the complicated one."

I nod dumbly, still half-asleep. Twitching and muttering...why don't I just wear a sign that says 'FUGITIVE'. Fuck. I put my drawl on and keep my voice steady. "Nice to meetcha, Charlene. Have fun with Billy."

"I will." Charlene pats my shoulder and, hoisting her bag, walks down the aisle to exit the bus.

I think about what it must be like to have an uncomplicated boyfriend, one who doesn't require a GPS chip in his cellphone or an attorney on speed dial. When what you're going to wear to prom is your most pressing concern, and you don't know how it feels to lose your best friend or to wake up without your underwear or—

Snap out of it, Veronica! You're not going to stay alive being morose. Stay alive....

'Blend in. Hide in plain sight. Be careful, and always be watching. Stay alive.'


Besides, I've tried uncomplicated. Yeah, that worked out well. Piz is probably composing a death metal ode in my memory right this moment.

I follow the other zombies off the bus, all of us stiff from sitting, many of us drowsy-eyed and bleary. There's a twenty-four hour convenience store across the highway, and I watch as three young men, probably college kids, head over there. I dutifully use the restroom again and inspect the food choices, but nothing appeals more than the sandwich already residing in my backpack. I'm sore, my muscles aching from sitting all this time and my ribs bruised from the ride in the trunk. While everyone mills around in the roadside diner, I head outside, and go around the corner of the building. Setting my backpack on the ground, I do a few stretches, trying to get the blood moving in my body again.

I've just straightened up again when I hear a wolf's whistle. The three college boys are crossing the roadway, one of them carrying a suspiciously heavy paper bag. "Yeah, baby," one of them calls to me. He nudges one of his buddies.

Great, I've attracted the attention of the local wildlife.

Hoisting my backpack onto my shoulder, I ignore them as I seethe inside. The gun clunks reassuringly in the bag as I move towards the bus. There's something about carrying a weapon that makes even teenage boys seem harmless, but still I'm hoping they're going to leave me alone.

I watch as one of the boys carefully engages the driver in conversation while the other two climb aboard the bus with their purchase and head to the back of the bus. I follow them and take the seat I'd been sitting in previously, about halfway down the aisle. Pulling out my sandwich, I begin eating it. People begin to board the bus as the appointed departure time approaches.

To my dismay, I hear whispering, and then the two boys move to the seat behind me, and when their partner in crime gets on board, he acknowledges his buddies and sits down in the seat vacated by Charlene. "Mind if we join you?" I have a moment when I can escape, but I hesitate, and all of a sudden the bus is thronged with passengers. The bus driver swings into his seat and starts up the bus again before I can make up my mind to move.

Behind me, one of the other boys chimes in, "You smell a lot better than the people in the back."

The other boy behind me pretends to cough. "Flexible." His companions bust a gut laughing.

I try to ignore them and finish my sandwich, crumpling the wrapper and stowing it in my bag. The bus is moving, and it's clearly too late to seek another seat without making a scene and attracting attention, but these boys are trouble.

The boy seated next to me, a tall kid with a bad complexion who looks like his only workout is hoisting a beer, keeps leering at me. Smiling sweetly, I say, "Um, I don't mind if you boys sit here. But I do have a totally ragin' case of the herpes. Sooo...look, don't touch, y'all." The 'y'all' feels like I'm putting it on a bit thick, but it passes without notice.

"Feisty!" the boy next to me exclaims as they all giggle.

I can't resist. "Honey, your name isn't Dick, by any chance? Or Chip?"

"No," he scoffs. "I'm Danny, that's Roger and Bob behind you." The two boys extend hands over the seatback, and I shake them. "So where you headed, beautiful?" Danny's eyes are glued on me; he's smitten. Fuck.

"It's a secret," I purr. The last thing I need is to declare that I'm heading for somewhere and find out that these jerkoffs are going to the same place: they'll raise the alarm if I don't get on the bus when they do. "Where are you guys goin'?"

"Fort Smith," Danny says.

"Next stop, right?" I ask. Fort Smith, where I'm planning on ditching and catching a new route. This is going to be tricky—I can't let these guys see me get on the wrong bus. Danny looks at me, and I realize what he's waiting for. "Oh...I'm Louann. I'm headed to Tulsa to visit my Great-Aunt Sally. She's eighty-two and crazy as all get out."

"Awesome," Danny replies. "We just finished up the semester at Texas A&M in Texarkana. Me and Bob are sophomores, Roger's a junior."

"That so?"

Danny looks around cautiously and whispers, "We've got beer. You want one?"

I hope the darkness on the bus conceals my eye roll. These guys couldn't have been more obvious in their 'stealth' maneuvers if they were elephants wearing tutus in Times Square. "Well, shut my mouth, you bet I do. Aren't you guys sly, sneakin' beer onto the bus?"

Danny starts explaining a drinking game based on rock, paper, scissors. I logically point out that there are four of us, not two, but the boys override my objections and pass me a beer.

I nurse my beer, pretending to sip, but in reality letting the liquid slip back into the can. When Danny asks me to watch his beer while he uses the bus's restroom, I pour half my beer into his can and most of the rest into my water bottle. He slides back into the seat and takes his beer. "You only rent beer, you know," he says. Danny hefts his can with puzzlement. "Hey, I thought I was almost empty...oh, whatever." He takes a great swig of liquid. "Okay, next round...one, two, three."

I dutifully extend my open palm for 'paper'. The other three all choose 'scissors' and whoop. "Drink!" Bob exclaims, in a loud whisper. I pretend to swallow an appropriate amount of beer as the three boys giggle.

The lady in front of us turns around and asks us to be quiet. Danny's about to retort, and I elbow him strongly. I hiss, "Don't make a scene. Do you really want her to get the bus driver back here? He can put us off the bus for drinking." I have no idea if that's true, but the last thing I want is for every single passenger to look at my face as the bus driver escorts us off the bus. My fake accent slips in my urgency, but it passes unnoticed. I hope.

Bob whispers, "My mom would kill me if we got kicked off and she had to buy me a second ticket."

Roger adds, "We should cool it, man."

"Okay, okay," Danny replies, outnumbered. "We'll keep it down." He leans over the seat and says, "Sorry, ma'am. We didn't realize how loud we were being. We'll be quiet."

"See that you do." I hear an audible 'humph' as she savagely flips the pages of her magazine.

Danny grabs another beer can. Smothering the sound with his jacket, he carefully pops the pull tab. He passes it back to Roger and then opens two more for himself and Bob. He nods to me, and I shake my head. "Still workin' on my first one, sweetie. I'm a real lightweight," I whisper. "Thanks, though."

I realize that my thigh muscle is quivering nervously. Chugging a little of my 'beer', I push down hard with my heel to try to get my leg to stop trembling. I can't decide if these boys are a disaster or a great cover. Everyone's going to remember them, that's for sure, including the bus driver. But will they remember the face of the brunette girl they were hitting on?

Danny asks, a little too casually, "So you got a boyfriend back home?"

You better fucking believe I got a boyfriend. "Sure do."

He sighs. "All the cute girls are taken." He launches into a story about a girl he'd fallen desperately in love with at Texas A&M. To my relief, the drinking game seems to be forgotten, but I start to wonder if I'm wearing a sign identifying me as Dear Abby. I try to nod in the right places during his tale of woe, although it's clear to me that the girl barely knew that Danny was alive. Uncharacteristically, I hold back from pointing out that he'd probably violated a few stalking ordinances, based on his account. Day One of Veronica Mars, the Forgiving Years. My newly turned leaf, along with a freshly minted halo, is intact.

In an attempt to talk about anything other than Danny's putative love life, I ask, "What's your major?"

"Criminal justice."

I throttle back a guffaw. If Danny only knew who he was talking to....

He presses me about myself, and I tell them I'm from a suburb of Shreveport, and I just finished my freshman year at Arizona State. Crossing my fingers, I hope Phoenix is far enough away that we don't have to play the who-do-you-know game. When asked about my major, I respond glibly, "Communication." If it was good enough for Kendall, it ought to satisfy these bozos.

The bus driver announces over the intercom, "Fort Smith, last stop. Everyone off. Change to the 112 at 12:30 for Kansas City. Check with the station agent for other destinations." The bus stops with a jerk, and people rise out of their seats and begin gathering their belongings.

I tense up. This is going to be tricky. Danny has been practically glued to me for the last hour, his thigh pressing against me even though I've scooted all the way over to the window. I've removed his wandering hand three times.

The boys are discussing a nearby bar that doesn't check ID as we progress up the aisle. Once in the bus terminal, I turn to them and say brightly, "Well, it was nice hangin' with you all. And thanks for the beverage."

Roger says, "We can wait with you until you make your connection. Wouldn't want anything to happen to you!"

"Damn straight," Danny agrees. "This terminal's not safe. It's freakin' midnight."

"You mean there's something more threatening to me than three drunken college boys with raging libidos?" I snark.

They're just drunk enough that my sarcasm goes over their head. "Come on, Louann. We're not going to abandon you now," Bob says.

Great, just fucking great. Now what do I do? I look up at the screen listing departures. The bus I want to get on leaves at 3:15am, but the one headed to my supposed destination of Tulsa is the 112, leaving in half an hour. "Seriously, don't you boys want to hustle on over to that bar you were talkin' about?"

"Oh, we've still got a six," Danny notes, holding up the bag. "We're cool."

"Well, I guess I'm being protected whether I like it or not," I reply, holding back my sigh.

After fifteen more minutes of scintillating conversation, mostly involving trading email addresses (fake on my part), boarding is announced, and I get on the bus. I'm hopeful that the boys will leave now so I can dart back off the bus and stick to my plan, but they stay, jumping and motioning to me through the window, until the bus rumbles out of the station. The last thing I see is Danny pretending to moon me, and then blowing a kiss while the other boys laugh at him.

So much for flying under the radar. I hope Logan's doing better than I am.

***

There aren't as many passengers on this bus, and I have a double seat to myself. As soon as we're underway, I pull out my Greyhound timetable and scrutinize my possibilities. It looks like there's a southbound bus that I can catch if I get off at the first stop that will just barely get me back to Fort Smith before the Nashville bus leaves.

My shoulders are tight with tension, and I let out a breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding. I've got to be able to roll with the punches if I'm going to survive. I rack my brain going over what had happened since I got on the bus in Shreveport, and I decided that the only thing I'd really done wrong was a few stretches at the rest stop. But those boys might have glommed onto me anyways.

I've got an hour before the first stop. No sleeping allowed, I tell myself sternly. It's only a little out of my way, I rationalize.

But when we get to Fayetteville at 1:30am, the 'terminal' turns out to be a darkened liquor store with no sign of life, and I realize there's not going to be any way to get out of Fayetteville until the morning. Looking back on the timetable, I see minuscule print that says, "M-Sa 9:00am-5:00pm". The bus barely stops, slowing down enough to see that no one's getting on or off, and then takes off again. I check the next stop in the timetable, Rogers/Bentonville, and it's the same story, "M-Sa 6:30am-3:30pm".

Twenty minutes later, we pull into beautiful downtown Rogers/Bentonville—to call it a one-horse town would be an insult to the horse. The bus stops at a bleak Citgo truckstop just off the highway, all neon and twangy country music. I follow everyone off the bus and dutifully use the restroom. As I suspected, the ticket window for bus reservations is chained shut. Through the grating I see a sign, 'All tickets must be purchased before boarding.'

I climb back on the bus, and try to settle in for a nap. Joplin, Missouri, our next and final stop, looks to be a full-service terminal. And I have no clue where I'm headed from there. I imagine Logan on another bus, wary of talking to anyone who might have seen his photo in the paper, and afraid to fall asleep. The anxiety ramps up again with relentless images replaying from today, Logan in handcuffs and bent over the police car. If Dad hadn't done what he did....I still don't completely understand why Dad had such a radical change of heart about Logan. And I'm completely aware how lucky we've been, every step of the way. It could have gone very badly at any time.

I push away the disturbing thoughts and give up on my nap. By now Dad's probably on a bus himself and hurtling toward Chapel Hill, determined to start a new life for us while Logan and I ride around the country. Pulling out the timetable again, I try to plot my next journey.

***

In Joplin, I splash some water on my face in the restroom and change my T-shirt and underwear, wrapping my dirty clothes in a paper towel and dumping them in the trash. I buy a ticket to Atlanta via St. Louis and Nashville, intending to ditch in Nashville as I'd previously planned. From Nashville, I can head towards Virginia and then south to Raleigh, and finally to Chapel Hill. The hubs are closer together on the east coast, and it will be easier to zigzag. That last leg will be the most nerve-wracking: I'll have to make sure I'm not followed so I don't lead anybody to Logan and Dad.

I have to wait two hours in the dingy Joplin terminal before the bus leaves, sharing it with several military personnel, a mom with two sleepy toddlers in tow, a man I suspect to be a recently paroled convict, and an assortment of tired and cranky people who want to be anywhere but Joplin, Missouri. A lone custodian mops the floor, ignoring all the passengers. The snack bar is closed and there's no food service except for vending machines. I buy a couple granola bars and a bag of peanuts, stuffing them in my backpack for later, and fill up my water bottle at the drinking fountain.

It's 4am and I'm completely wired, even without any caffeine. Feeling conspicuous and paranoid, I take up residence in a corner, pretending to listen to my iPod, but in reality watching everyone. I observe, along with everyone else, as a dark-haired young man, with a three-day beard, filthy clothes, and no baggage, paces relentlessly in the center of the terminal, talking to himself and listening to voices that only he can hear. I'm ridiculously grateful to him for being the center of everyone's attention.

As I get in line to board the bus at 5:20am, I notice a copy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette discarded on a chair and snag it, stowing it in my bag. Boarding goes without a hitch—I still haven't seen any security precautions and certainly no metal detectors. The bus is full, and the seat beside me is taken by an elderly woman who has an odd odor about her. Perfumed talc, mustiness, and fried food, I decide. But she keeps to herself, barely nodding to me as she sits down. She opens up her Bible to a marked spot and begins reading, her lips moving slightly as she progresses.

I've forgotten about the adulterated Bible in my own bag. I don't pull it out, but it reassures me to remember the pictures of Mom and Dad, Backup, Wallace, Mac, even one of me and Logan in happier days, that are pasted under the endpages.

We have a little over six hours before the first transfer, in St. Louis. I feel myself crashing, and I decide that my overwhelming fatigue makes it worth the risk to really try to get some sleep. Exhaustion will lead to mistakes. I send a mental message to my seatmate to pray for my safety and lean my head against the window, falling asleep within seconds.

***

I wake up about a half an hour from St. Louis. My seatmate has fallen asleep, snoring a little as she dozes. So I take the opportunity to pull out my purloined copy of the Arkansas newspaper. On page two, below the fold, there are photos of Logan, Dad, and myself, each about 2"x3", just big enough to make my blood run cold. They'd used my Hearst ID photo, when I'd had long curly blonde hair and no bangs. I'd worn a fair amount of makeup that day, knowing that I'd have to live with the photo for four years, so I look a little older in the photo than I appear now.
Prisoner Escape Frustrates El Dorado Police Department

A daring prisoner escape has police searching for three people who are wanted in California on multiple felony charges. One man and a woman created a diversion yesterday with gunfire and then freed their male companion, who had just been arrested on the California charges, police said.

Police on patrol were notified Tuesday mid-morning by a 911 call asking for assistance when an unidentified local woman, unrelated to the suspects, suffered an apparent heart attack. El Dorado Chief of Police William Pearson stated that when paramedics and the responding officer arrived, a man later identified as Logan Echolls of Neptune, California was performing CPR on the victim, who was eventually resuscitated by medical personnel and is now listed in stable condition at the Medical Center of South Arkansas. An alert bystander informed the officer of the man's identity and his wanted status. Officer Ronald Washington then took Echolls into custody and secured him in his police cruiser.

As the officer took statements from witnesses, shots were heard from a neighboring building. While the officer investigated, Echolls' accomplices retrieved the suspect and drove away. The accomplices are presumed to be Keith Mars, a former sheriff from Balboa County, California and licensed private investigator, and his daughter, Veronica, also a private investigator. Witnesses indicated that the male suspect was impersonating an officer of the law to effect the escape.

El Dorado and Arkansas State Police attempted to intercept the trio, setting up numerous roadblocks on all highways leaving El Dorado, but as of this morning the culprits were still at large and the investigation ongoing, said Chief Pearson. The chief added that, although there was no report of injuries at the scene, the use of gunfire to effect an escape indicated a reckless disregard for bystander safety.

The suspects are wanted in California for burglary (V. Mars), spoliation of evidence and failure to appear (K. Mars), and felony battery and probation violation (Echolls). Veronica Mars is 19, blonde, 5'1", 100 pounds, Keith Mars is 45, balding, 5'8", 165, and Logan Echolls, son of the late Hollywood star, Aaron Echolls, is 19, light brown hair, 6'1" and 170 lbs. All three are residents of Neptune, California. They were last seen driving a grey Ford Taurus with a California license plate starting with 8B8. The suspects are believed to be armed and dangerous, and anyone seeing them or their vehicle is asked to call 870-555-TIPS.
Way to bury the lead, I thought bitterly. What about...Formerly Disgraced Son of Sleazy Action Star/Murderer Heroically Saves Woman's Life With No Concern for Himself? And that bit about reckless disregard...they made it sound like I was shooting kittens behind that building. I'm surprised that they didn't throw in some information about Lilly's murder and my confrontation with Aaron, but the tabloids will certainly dredge that up. I suppose it could be worse, but it's pretty damn bad. At least they're still looking for the Taurus and haven't made the connection to the Chrysler we stole from the parking garage.

In case anyone's watching, I read several more articles from the paper before folding it up and stowing it in my backpack again.

The driver announces, "Last stop, St. Louis. Change to bus number 4872 for Chicago and Minneapolis. 1651 for Kansas City. 669 for Nashville. 1138 for Memphis." Along with everyone else, I shoulder my backpack and shuffle down the aisle to the exit.

By now, I'm used to the bleakness of the bus stations and the wide variety of characters encountered there. But the difference is that St. Louis is a major hub and there are throngs of people milling about. It's good and bad: easier for me to hide in a crowd, but more people for me to worry about. So I scan the crowd, the way Dad taught me, a few seconds on each face, methodically checking each person on a mental grid.

And then I see him. The schizophrenic guy from the Joplin terminal, accompanied—no, manhandled—by a large man in a suit I've never seen before. The schizophrenic guy is shaking his head, talking a mile a minute and twitching as the other guy gestures toward me and my fellow passengers as we spill out of the Greyhound.

They're here for me.

I don't know who the large guy is, but I know he's trouble and I can't let him get close to me. Russian mafia? Private dick? It doesn't matter. He's muscled with a layer of fat, and he looks like he's been in more than a few fights. Close-cropped gray hair and a puffy face, and a cheap brown suit that isn't tailored well enough to hide the fact that he's packing a gun.

The announcer in the terminal says, "Now arriving at gate number five, bus number 1340 from Joplin, Missouri. Bus number 4810 departing from gate fifteen has been delayed; check the departure screens for updated information."

I can't sit in this terminal for two hours waiting for the Nashville bus. They haven't spotted me yet, but it's only a matter of time. Hanging back with the last of the passengers exiting the bus, I pull my hair out of the two ponytails I've been sporting and quickly draw my hair back into a bun. I extract a baseball cap and sunglasses from my bag and put them on. It's pathetic and futile as a disguise, but I'm hoping the schizophrenic guy will be confused.

My pursuers turn to their left, following the passengers who are collecting their baggage from under the bus. Clutching my backpack close to me, I slip into the crowd, moving fast in the opposite direction, jostling people as I go. There's a ticket counter twenty feet away and I hustle to get there.

When I get there, I'm second in line at the ticket counter. Come on, come on, come on. One hand stays in my backpack, and I flip the safety on the Glock pistol. My foot taps out a rhythm, and my shoulders ache with tension. I don't dare turn around to see where my pursuers are. Instead, I locate the two nearest exits and watch the departures screen. The next departure is bus number 4810, heading to Chicago, which was supposed to leave a few minutes before we arrived, but it's has been delayed ten minutes and is listed as 'NOW BOARDING' at gate fifteen. We were five minutes early, so I just might make it...if I run. And my pursuers won't have time to buy a ticket. I make sure I know exactly where gate fifteen is in relation to my current position. Just as the customer in front of me leaves the counter, the line for 4810 on the display starts flashing, and I assume that means the bus is about to depart.

The bored ticket agent looks at me. "How may I help you." It's not a question, and there's zero urgency. She's two hundred pounds of I-hate-this-fucking-job, topped by the surly expression of someone who deals with assholes all day long.

"4810 to Chicago, one adult please." I put three fifties and my fake ID on the counter.

The agent frowns at the clock. "Don't think you'll make it. And this would be a nonrefundable ticket."

"I'd like to try, if you don't mind." It's hell, but I keep from screaming at her. "Please hurry." I chance a look around. They've spotted me and they're moving towards me.

The agent types at her computer with excruciating slowness and shrugs. "Your money. Have a nice day." She pushes the ticket and my change toward me; I grab it and run for the gate. My pursuer lets go of the schizophrenic man and chases me at full speed.

I make it to the gate just as they're closing the baggage compartment under the bus. "Hold it, please!" I call out. Everyone's looking at me, but I don't have a choice. I flash the ticket, panting hard and looking over my shoulder, and I'm allowed to proceed onto the bus just before the door hisses closed.

The large man's gaze meets mine through the bus window. He now knows exactly where I'm going and when I'm going to get there. A smile spreads over his face, and he waves bye-bye to me.

Continue reading...Pursuit

(no subject)

Date: 2011-07-02 10:33 pm (UTC)
afrocurl: (Stock - Collection)
From: [personal profile] afrocurl
Oh Veronica, this is not going to turn out well at all. But I totally applaud you for the effort.

Hopefully a stop somewhere before Chicago will be all she needs, but I'm not so sure.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-07-02 11:19 pm (UTC)
afrocurl: (VM - Naked!Logan)
From: [personal profile] afrocurl
damn you!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-07-04 10:17 pm (UTC)
medjunkie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] medjunkie
first off loved the name, have you got all the chapter names worked out?
Really liked the whole chapter, Veronica cuts a very lonely figure, so much of her PI work was enjoyable to her, even the tough cases she appeared to relish the challenge, while this is pure survival.
I thought this descriptive passage was very strong :


A few minutes later, we're back on the bus as the sun dips below the horizon. It's a gorgeous sunset, nature having missed the memo on pathetic fallacy. Puffy clouds have gathered to reflect pink and purple hues above the tree line. Flat terrain, unbelievably uniform, as far as the eye can see. Tendrils of fire scorch the sky as the sun etches its departure. There's a last sliver of lava beyond the shadow-blackened trees, and then the sky inexorably deepens through slate blue to charcoal.

and it reminds me of why I have always wanted to travel round the states in a greyhound bus. Preferably not as a fugutive though

(no subject)

Date: 2011-07-07 02:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] annie-oakley.livejournal.com
I'm really enjoying this fic so far. Love your descriptive writing and finally getting some emotional fallout from Veronica's actions. I hate to say it, but I doubt we would have ever gotten anything close to this on the show. RT wasn't very good at, you know, follow up. Everything probably would have been dry-erased by the start of the 4th season, if they got one. So this is very satisfying.

It's depressing, too, though (but in a good way). Even if they get through this, and get to the place they want to be, I can't imagine ever having a decent life with something like this always hanging over their heads. But I love Veronica in this. She feels more like the season one Veronica, back when she was my favorite character. The season three Veronica, from the show, probably would still be angry at the world and not so much herself for how things turned out. YMMV, but I still get the feeling Veronica ended the series not exactly insightful or remorseful, but rather...bitter(?) that the world operated the way it did in that the bad guys won while the good guys were punished.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-07-07 05:01 pm (UTC)
schuylerjo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] schuylerjo
Oooh, I love this chapter. Definitely my fave so far. First of all, you did a nice job of Veronica's point of view. At first I was on the fence, characterization-wise, but I think that is because i have a hard time with first-person Veronica. By the end I was really feeling the Ronnie-vibe, though :). I liked her choices with the drunken guys on the bus, and I was impressed with the anticipation you built. I also liked the details you included - it was an excellent balance. I get annoyed with paragraph after paragraph of detail. Usually I just want to get to the point. But you did a good job of using the description to drive the story.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-07-08 03:44 pm (UTC)
schuylerjo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] schuylerjo
I should clarify...I wasn't specifically talking about your writing when I referred to my annoyance with too many details :). It's my general outlook.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-15 12:59 am (UTC)
sroni: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sroni
I really like this story (this is actually my second or third read through). Only "critique" I can think of is your description of Bentonville/Rogers; it's actually a fairly large and populated area, though it does depend on where you are. I'm not sure where the bus station is there, so it's entirely possible that what she could see backed up the opinion of it being a one horse town.

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