The Path to God Is . . .
Mr. MacLay: This is insane! You people have no right to interfere in Tara's affairs. We are her blood kin. Who the hell are you?
Buffy: We're family.
– Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Hey, folks! Been a while, but I promised y'all a sequel to Death Becomes Him, and this is it. Just before the debut of The Movie seemed like a good time to start (and as a Kickstarter backer for that, I take a tiny amount of credit.) There will be thrills, chills, and spills aplenty.
Note that this isn't a crossover; it's strictly Veronica Mars
, although Veronica, per my characterization, is a Buffy fan no matter what universe she's in.Veronica Mars
was created by Rob Thomas. I ain't him.
So, let's rewind, shall we?
Aaron Echolls dead; Cassidy Casablancas dead; my shot shoulder healing; Trina Echolls arrested; my mom still in a coma she's never likely to come out of.
But: I have friends. And a boyfriend. And it's generally, though hardly universally, accepted that Aaron killed Lilly Kane.
Bad things happen. Good things happen. Which is an uptick for me, who until fairly recently was getting about ten of the former for every one of the latter.
And now, shortly after my shoulder had healed to the point where I could actually use that arm again, I get a mysterious note from someone asking me to meet them in the journalism room after school. So I show up there, open the door, and get . . .
"I was hoping it would be you."
"Well, who else would it be, Meg?" I asked. "You invited me here, at this time. Unless you thought maybe I was one of the custodians?"
"I wouldn't worry about the custodians," she said. "Or Clemmons, or almost anyone else."
"Who were you worried about?" I asked.
"That's why I invited you here." A deep breath. "It's time, Veronica."
Note the use of that word? Veronica? That's an indication we've reached serious business, knock off the smartass crap, time.
So I knocked off the smartass crap. I know, I know, difficult for me, but despite my reputation I am in fact perfectly capable of taking things seriously.
The trial of Trina Echolls, for instance. I was going to be deadly serious about that. I was going to pay close attention to the whole thing and do whatever I could to make sure she went down, and went down hard, for what she'd done -- not to me, but to Lynn. You've heard of serious as a heart attack? Trina's going to wish I was being that lighthearted.
Veronica Mars, girl detective, holds grudges. I have friends, my life doesn't completely and totally suck beyond the ability of words to describe, but I don't appreciate people shooting at my friends, never mind me, whether their reason was "I want you dead" or "I want lots and lots of publicity."
Anyway, that? Not particularly important at the moment. What – who – was important, at the moment, was sitting directly in front of me.
And I was in serious business mode at the moment. I took a couple of steps over to the table, sat down, and said, "Okay. You asked me here."
"Do you know I why I asked you here?"
I bit off a snarky response like, "No, I left my telepathy powers in the car," and simply said, "I think I have some idea. But I'd like to hear you confirm it."
Meg chuckled, though there wasn't a lot of humor in it. "Let me rephrase that. Do you know why I asked you to meet me here? As in, in the journalism room at high school, and not a classroom, or Java the Hut, or some random street corner?”
I thought for a second. “Because it's somewhere under your control?”
“Not quite. It's under Duncan's control. But the point is, it's not under their control. It's not somewhere they could ever control, or think of controlling.”
“So we could have just as easily met at the Echolls house, or my Dad's office.”
“Yep. Except I wouldn't want them overhearing. Not that I don't trust your Dad, but --”
“Don't worry about offending me. I get where you're coming from. And on behalf of my Dad: No offense taken.” I wasn't going to speak on behalf of Lynn Echolls, but I was fairly sure she wouldn't have been offended either.
“Good.” A deep breath. “I need your help.”
“I figured as much. Is this about what you didn't want to talk about?”
“It is.” A few more deep breaths; like voluntary hyperventilating. “You were right. My parents are abusive.”
I hate it when I'm right sometimes, I really do. “Yeah. So. What do you need me to do? Because I have Weevil Navarro on speed-dial.”
No, I wasn't going to have Weevil kill Meg's parents. I don't think he would. Weevil's no great respecter of law and order, but he draws the line at outright murder.
Case in point: former PCH'er Armando Alvarado. Armando's the bastard who, when we were all scrambling around trying to find Trina before she killed Lynn (not that she was going to, but we didn't know that at the time), decided to sell us out to her, taking her bribe in exchange for cluing her in that Logan and I were on our way up to the Echolls hunting lodge.
That pissed off Weevil two ways: One, by disobeying orders, and two, by selling out a friend of his. I told Dad, in the aftermath of the Trina thing, that I didn't give a damn if Weevil tied Armando up, put him in a sack, and threw him in the Pacific, as long as he didn't get caught. Armando didn't end up having to learn to breathe underwater, but he did end up beaten within an inch of his life and told he had about ten minutes to get the hell out of Neptune, and by the way, that bike you're riding and all the money you got on you belong to the PCH'ers, so have a nice walk, and if we see you again, you're a dead man, pendejo
, got it?
So if Weevil didn't kill Armando, he's not going to kill the Manning Family.
He might be persuaded to scare them, though.
But Meg was shaking her head. “No. I don't want them dead. And besides, it would be impossible to put the fear of God into them. I don't think even your father could pull it off.”
Okay, now that I had a problem with; Dad could put the fear of God into anyone short of Wolverine or Buffy's Giles. Still, this was very much not the issue at the moment. “Why?”
“The path to God is paved with righteousness." She said it like she was quoting someone. “That's what we all have to write. In books that Dad and Mom keep. Thousands of times. Until we accept it. Until we live it and love it. Until we accept that God has a plan for our lives and that that plan has nothing to do with having our minds or opinions or anything beyond find a nice, righteous man, and settling down to pop out lots of babies, who of course will be raised the same way, because Grandpa and Grandma will see to that.”
That Meg sounded no less cheery and perky than normal, even if that perkiness came with a side order of acid so strong it could've burned a hole through Mount Everest, made what she said even more chilling.
She kept going, “But it's not just that. It's that we're punished
if we misbehave.” I looked at her arms and legs. “Not beaten. They'd never do that. 'Spare the rod, spoil the child,' but we're not children anymore.”
“No,” Meg said. “I can't go there. Not yet. But it happens.”
And this explained it. “This is why you wanted me to teach you how to be a PI.”
“Yes. I need to save them. I have
to save them.” She put her hands on mine. “Will you help me?”
“Do you need to ask?” I said. “Like I said, Meg. You have friends too.”
“So, what do we do?” she asked.
I'm good at planning, but this is going to take a little more work than storming the Echolls mansion or setting up Beaver with a toilet-cam. “I don't know. Yet,” I added when her face fell. “But I can guarantee you one thing.”