Now we are seniors again, book 2 (Archie & friends fan fiction)

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hobbyfan

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The focus shifts now to Reggie & Veronica in Book 2. As per usual, all characters, save for ones I've created, are copyright Archie Comics.
===================================
Book 2: Reggie & Veronica: When money comes to money, trouble follows

All throughout the first semester at Boston University, Reggie Mantle had been in a steady, long-distance relationship with on-again, off-again girlfriend Veronica Lodge, who was at Russell Sage College's Albany campus. Both were lonely for each other. While Reggie had a developing career as a reporter to think about, Ronnie, on the other hand, was drifting aimlessly. Aside from twice-weekly study groups, there wasn't much there for her to do to hold her attention. However, she was drawing some unwanted attention, even if she didn't realize it.

After returning to Albany following Thanksgiving break, Ronnie discovered her apartment had been broken into. Nothing of value had been taken, but the intruder left something behind.

"The guy's been stalking me for three months.", Veronica told Reggie over the phone later that night. "He's been taking pictures, and left one enlarged photo here as a calling card."

"So he's interested in you.", Reggie replied. "Did he leave a name and number?"

"No. He left the picture, with my clothes photoshopped off, and said to meet him at the public library's branch on Washington Avenue tomorrow after school. If I don't, he'll distribute that altered photo for every boy on campus to see."

"Now, it's blackmail. Have you gone to the police?"

"Yes. A couple of detectives just left. Not much they can do at this point, unless he shows up again."
====================================
The next day, Veronica kept her appointment at the library, arriving shortly after 1 pm. Albert Cushing, a freelance photographer, motioned her over to a table near the cafe.

"I apologize for breaking into your apartment, Ms. Lodge, but it was the only way to get your attention.", he said.

"It would've been better if you put out a classified ad looking for models like everyone else.", Ronnie fumed.

"I'm banned from ever setting foot on the Sage campuses, due to an unpleasant experience a few years ago.", Cushing replied. "I can't even advertise in the student newspaper."

"Sounds like something very bad happened."

"I was falsely accused of raping a couple of students. Even though I was cleared of all charges, college administration banned me for life because, supposedly, I'd been a little too aggressive in approaching prospective models."

"Why blackmail, then?"

"Again, it was the only way to get your attention. You're a very wealthy 20-something who could've enrolled anywhere, like at Oxford, for example."

"I'm not smart enough for Oxford."

"You've seen my work, Ms. Lodge. I'm interested in a more formal, professional setting with you, if you're interested."

"You just used the key words, Mr. Cushing. Formal & professional. I have a boyfriend back in Boston who is just as concerned as I am about what happened last night."

Cushing offered Ronnie a contract, and she signed.

Three weeks later, the two met at Cushing's studio in Colonie. Ronnie posed for pictures for an hour, and was paid for the time spent. Little did she know what she was really getting herself into.
=========================================
On New Year's Eve, Veronica was in New York as Cushing's guest. She brought Reggie along as her date, with the idea that Reggie could interview Cushing as a human interest piece for the Boston Globe. The first official set of photos that Ronnie had posed for were on display, which drew attention to the rookie model. However, just as Veronica and Reggie were getting ready to leave, Veronica received a text from an unknown party, and excused herself.

"Ron? Where are you going? We're supposed to return to the hotel by midnight, and back home in the morning.", Reggie said.

"I'll catch up, hon'. Something's come up.", came the reply.

About 15 minutes later, a lithe, black garbed figure entered the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and managed to evade the museum's security system before approaching a display case containing a priceless diamond tiara, imported for a temporary display from Paris. But, before the thief could even crack open the case, a second figure in black approached.

"They say diamonds are a girl's best friend.", Veronica said, removing a lycra ski mask. "But, I've got enough of those at home, and don't need to add to my collection."

"Then, you're more of a fool than I thought."

The thief pointed a gun at Veronica. Instead of bullets, it issued knockout gas, and Ronnie was rendered unconscious in seconds. When she came to, she found herself in jail on a charge of....

"Attempted robbery, Ms. Lodge. I'd say you were foolish enough to take your mask off at the scene.", Detective Dave Robarge said.

"There was a second woman there, detective. I confronted her, and got knocked out with sleeping gas, like in the movies. But you're saying she didn't get anything?"

"One of you ladies tripped the silent alarm at the museum. Soon as you went to sleep, the sirens sent the other woman on her way, leaving you as a convienent patsy. Whomever she is, she'll be back, I'm sure."

"Then why am I here?"

"Have no fear, Ms. Lodge, you'll be released in the morning. We found your other clothes in your car, so you'll have something to change into when you do leave."
=========================================
Was Veronica set up? And if so, by whom? Albert Cushing? We'll see in chapter 2.
 

hobbyfan

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Chapter 2:

Veronica was released, with all charges dropped, the next morning. Reggie picked her up, and the two returned to Boston. Later that same afternoon, Veronica was contacted by Cushing, who was in town, and wanted to meet with her privately.

On January 3, Veronica had a dinner meeting with Cushing.

"I should've realized someone else would go after the tiara.", he said. "It's priceless, but it doesn't matter to certain, ah, 'collectors' who want it for themselves."

"It's due to leave New York at the end of the week, come here to Boston, then to Albany, before heading back to Paris.", Ronnie replied. "Whomever sent that burglar I fought will send her back out again and again."

Cushing then revealed that his photography studio was a cover. He was really a special agent for the US government.

"My office was tasked with guarding the tiara on New Year's Eve.", he said. "The display premiere of your photo shoot was the perfect cover."

"But since you couldn't leave the hotel, that left it up to me.", Veronica replied. "At least the tiara is still safe for the moment."
======================================
Four nights later, in Boston, with the tiara now housed in a museum there, the thief tried again. Again, Veronica was waiting for her, this time as Ms. Vanity, garbed from head to toe in black & white, including her cowled mask.

"You again!", the burglar hissed, recognizing Ronnie's movements from a week earlier.

"This time I came prepared.", Ms. Vanity replied. Twin beams of light emitted from her gloved hands, blinding the thief, who was quickly subdued, and left for the police to find.

The next day, Veronica drove back to Albany, only to find Cushing had closed his studio. He left a note behind.

"He said he felt his work was done.", she told Reggie after returning to Boston. "I don't think so."

"The French Consulate in Boston has gotten word that the rest of the tour's been cancelled, and the tiara is heading back to Paris tomorrow.", came the reply. "However, I do share your belief that this isn't over by any stretch."

"At least we have an ID on the thief.", Ronnie said. "Amanda Cutler, age 22. Seems she's a college student by day."

"She was.", Reggie replied. "Parents were divorced about eight months ago. She wanted nothing to do with either, so she moved in with a rich boyfriend, who happens to be about 20 years her senior. Fella by the name of Antonio de la Rocha."

"Sounds like an emigre from Spain or Mexico. Isn't he an art collector?"

"Yes, he is. Seems to think that tiara is a work of art, so he covets it. He's due to appear at BU on Friday, so I may get to talk to him for the school paper and/or the Globe."

On January 11, de la Rocha cancelled his scheduled appearance at Boston University, claiming a family emergency. The lecture would not be rescheduled.

"He does have a sort of allergy when it comes to reporters.", Professor Dane Hughes told Reggie. "Obviously, it would appear as though he has something to hide."

"And I bet I know what that something is.", Reggie thought to himself.
==============================
Later that day, Reggie filled in the gang on things at Pop's Place.

"His coveting the tiara is the real reason he no-showed BU this morning.", he said. "I'd lay good odds he left for Paris instead."

"Then I'd say you could cash in on those odds.", Archie replied, pointing at the television. "Take a look."

A news report revealed that de la Rocha had been arrested at the Louvre for trying to steal the tiara. Amanda wasn't with him, as she was still in a Boston jail.

Three days later, Veronica received a phone call at home.

"Forgive the intrusion, Ms. Lodge.", the caller said. "My name is Vincent Fredericks, and I'm interested to find out if you still want to pursue a modeling career."
================================
Ronnie does have a model's body, but is she a model for trouble? We'll see in chapter 3.
 

hobbyfan

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Chapter 3:

"I don't know how you got this number, but right now, a modeling career is a low priority."

Veronica did well to hide the fact she was annoyed that Fredericks had somehow obtained her phone number. She thanked him for his interest, but another modeling gig would be at the very least 2-3 years away, no matter how much he wanted to pay her.

However, if she thought that was the end of it, she should've known better.
================================
On February 4, Veronica was called into the office of the dean of students at Sage. At issue was the photoshopped portrait of her in the nude, now circulating around the campus.

"I was told it'd been destroyed.", she said. "The photographer who took the picture left town a few weeks back."

"Do you know if the picture had been posted online?", Dean Alexis Francis asked.

"No, ma'am. I don't think so."

Later that day, Veronica contacted Al Cushing at his office in Washington.

"The master copies were destroyed, yes.", he said. "However, the student who was my assistant may have held on to a copy for his own use."

"That wouldn't happen to be a fellow named Vincent Fredericks, would it?", Ronnie asked.

"Yes, it was. I discharged him from his duties before I met you."

Veronica told Cushing how Fredericks contacted her, and Cushing deduced that Fredericks must've used some sort of software on his computer to obtain Ronnie's phone number, which otherwise would've been classified online.

A couple of hours later, Ronnie checked her e-mail, and found that Fredericks had obtained her e-mail address. It was at that point that she realized he'd gotten her information from the dean's office. She then called Dean Francis.

"Now that you mention it, he did get caught thumbing through confidential student files, including yours.", she said. "I suspended him for 10 days last month, but apparently, that wasn't enough."

"Not nearly enough.", Veronica replied. She told Francis how Fredericks had been hassling her online, spamming her e-mailbox.

"I will meet with Vincent in the morning.", Francis said. "I suggest you be there, too."

"Oh, I will. With my lawyer if necessary."
============================
Shortly before midnight, Fredericks left a voice mail for Ronnie while she slept. She recorded the message on a separate tape, and brought it with her to school.

Confronted with evidence of wrong-doing, Vince Fredericks tried to lie his way out of it, but it was no use. He was the one, at Cushing's command, who took most of the surveillance pictures of Veronica, and he was the one who photoshopped her clothes off, knowing other boys would get a rise out of it.

"It was mostly to get even with my ex.", he said. "She dumped me over the holidays."

"You can stop with the lies.", Ronnie replied. "From what I've seen, you'd be better served flirting with a department store mannequin."

"She's right about that.", Francis offered. "You've been a lone wolf since the school year started, Vincent. I believe you're pursuing Veronica just because she's wealthy as well as attractive, and you're not comfortable unless you're sponging money and other items off other students without reimbursement."

Fredericks left the office without comment, then tried to run away. Security caught him, just as the police arrived.

"It turns out, Veronica, that young Mr. Fredericks was working for someone other than Mr. Cushing at his now closed modeling agency.", Francis said.

"You mean a rival photographer?"

"Not exactly."
===============================
"Vince Fredericks' old man is another collector.", Reggie reported later that day. "Both father & son have arrest records a mile long, and three miles wide."

"Well, Vince was expelled from Sage today for, among other things, hassling me, breaking & entering the records office, and falsifying his own records. Seems he was trying to recruit me for his own effort to obtain the tiara.", Veronica replied.

"Which would've been a waste of time. The French government has moved it to a secret, private location, so that case is closed."

"That's not all, hon'."

"Oh?'

"I'm transferring to Riverdale City College for the rest of the season. My transcript should be in their computer system within 24 hours. I've had my fill of Albany."

"Can't say I'd blame you. You going to move back home?"

"Nope. Getting my own place in town. I need to get out from under my dad's thumb once and for all."

"Let me know when you're leaving. I'll get some of the guys together, and we'll move you out."

"That's sweet, Reggie, but I've asked Smithers to rent a U-Haul truck for the day. My last day at Sage is Friday, and I'm leaving town that same day. I'll be back in Riverdale that night."
========================
So Ronnie is coming home. Will there be any sweet music between her & Reggie going forward?
 

hobbyfan

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Chapter 4:

On February 11, Veronica was enrolled at Riverdale City College. It wasn't so much to be close to Archie Andrews again. That ship had sailed with Archie firmly committed to Betty Cooper. For now, it'd be a low profile for the heiress, concentrating on her studies, and perhaps finding a way out from under her father's thumb, once and for all.

Rather than return to New Dimensions Fashions for an after-school job, Ronnie opted to take an intern's job at the Gazette as a photographer's assistant. She'd spent some time with Reggie in this same capacity over the summer, and inwardly cursed herself for not thinking of this sooner.

Four days later, Veronica was supposed to meet reporter Bridget Reynolds on assignment at City Hall for a press conference. Veronica was on time, but Bridget was missing. Realizing time was of the essence, Veronica pulled her own digital camera out of her purse, and began taking pictures. After the press conference, she checked with her editor, Elliott Morrissey.

"No, Bridget never reported for work this morning, Veronica. Did you go to City Hall anyway?", he asked.

"Yes, and I have some photos.", Ronnie replied.

She reported to the newspaper office ten minutes later, and, with some help, transmitted the photos into the office computer for publication. She'd made sure none of her personal photos were still in the camera.

"Great work, Veronica!", Morrissey exclaimed. "I don't know what they taught you kids at Riverdale High, but the journalism program keeps turning out future stars."

"Thanks. It was spur of the moment, and I did recall some lessons from those days."

Twenty minutes later, Morrissey left the office, and handed Veronica an office-issued camera. She was going with him, and neither would like what they'd find.

Bridget was found hanging off a street lamp, not far from Goldwater Park, her face hidden under a burlap hood. It looked like she'd been lynched. Once the hood was removed, it turned out that Bridget had been in a fight for her life, her face bruised severely.

"Looks like Logan Maddox is playing for keeps.", Morrissey observed.

"Who's he?", Veronica asked.

"Maddox is a third party candidate for Mayor, fifth time running for the post. He's never gotten more than 5 percent of the vote in past efforts."

"When was the last time he ran?"

"2011. He was picked up for extortion and promoting prostitution two weeks before the election, and, well, he's been seeking revenge ever since. He did his time, but it seems he's resorting to old school intimidation tactics. Bridget's father was the one who put him away eight years ago, but Mack Reynolds retired to Georgia two years later, and Bridget picked up his beat."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, no witnesses came forward, perhaps out of fear of reprisals.

"I thought that stuff went out of style years ago.", Veronica said on the phone to Reggie later that night.

"It never did. It's just lurking beneath the surface in a lot of places, usually in the south.", he replied. "To some people, power of any kind is like a drug. Which is why I gave up being Evilheart in the first place."
===========================
Logan Maddox, though, had an alibi. He hosted a $1,000 a plate dinner at Town Hall. One of his supporters? Hiram Lodge.

"Hiram, I see your daughter's taking up a career in journalism.", he said, noting the pictures of the press conference.

"She was brought in as a photographer's assistant, but the reporter assigned to the story never showed, and Ronnie, acting on her own initiative, took the pictures and filed the story herself. The instincts, she gets from me."

"Indeed, she does, Hiram. Beginner's luck."

However, as Maddox left Town Hall, his expression & mood changed.

"The Gazette may have just found their replacement for Bridget Reynolds.", he said. "Unless we get to her first."

"Don't sweat it, Logan. Those Riverdale High kids are like a bad rash, but a rash can be cured."

Joseph DiMarco, newly paroled from prison, smiled. In his mind, he knew how to get to Veronica, if only he knew that her personal life had gone through so many changes........
=============================
What a shock, eh? DiMarco's back. Looks like Ronnie may have to become Ms. Vanity again, and may need some help in chapter 5.
 
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hobbyfan

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Chapter 5:

A month had passed since Bridget Reynolds' murder, and Veronica hadn't gotten any more assignments from the Gazette. Meanwhile, Joseph DiMarco and Logan Maddox were plotting a trap for the cub reporter.

"You've made friends with her father.", DiMarco said, referring to Hiram. "Why not see if he's planning a dinner for you?"

"He is. He's hosting a banquet at Town Hall on March 24. $1500 a plate. Veronica is sure to be there.", Maddox replied. "She's a good kid, but in over her head. It'd be a shame to take her out of the picture."

"It has to be done."
====================================
But, on the night of the banquet, Veronica was nowhere to be found. Instead, she'd accepted an assignment out of town, and wouldn't be back until later that night. Reggie, meanwhile, had gotten the green light from his editor at the Globe, and had been quietly pursuing his own leads. The day before the banquet, he'd met with Riverdale Police Chief Robert Bolling.

"This is most interesting.", Bolling said. "I knew DiMarco would look for an excuse to return to town as soon as he was paroled."

"It explains why Bridget Reynolds was murdered.", Reggie said. "She knew about the parole board, and was ready to blow the whistle when DiMarco's goons got to her. Maddox, as far as we know, is in the clear on this one. If he fails to win the election in the fall, DiMarco may just make him a fall guy if he sticks around."

At the banquet, Reggie was accompanied by his father, Rick, as both were following the story for their respective papers. There was no sign of DiMarco, and Reggie knew why.

"He can't risk being seen here, with allegations hanging over Maddox's head.", he thought. "I don't think he knows Ronnie's been away all weekend, and even if he finds her, she'll have some backup."
=======================================
Around 11 pm, Veronica returned home on one of her father's private jets, which landed at Logan Airport. Smithers was with her, while Sam Seely, one of Maddox's associates, waited at the coffee shop until closing. With a gun concealed under his belt, Seely walked toward the lobby exit nearest to where the plane had landed. Abruptly, he found himself airborne at the hands of Pureheart the Powerful.

"I think the Police would like to talk to you, fella.", Pureheart said. Seely fainted.

Smithers hailed a limo, driven by Patrick Trabert, a second year assistant that the Lodges had hired to ease Smithers' workload. By midnight, Veronica was back at the Lodge mansion, only to find that had become a battleground.

"Stay inside, Ms. Veronica.", Smithers commanded. "Seems your father has his hands quite full at the moment."

Indeed, he did. DiMarco was waiting for him the minute he returned from the banquet. Fortunately, Mystyk & Captain Hero had the mansion staked out, just in case.

"We could've been a formidable team, Lodge.", DiMarco smirked. "Together, we could rule the commonwealth."

"Not in this lifetime.", Hiram thundered. "The next place you're going isn't to jail, but to a mental hospital."

DiMarco looked around. His hired goons had all been defeated. Reluctantly, he surrendered.
===================================
"Seely spilled everything like water out of a fountain.", Archie bragged the next day at Pop's after work. He confessed to the Reynolds murder, and said DiMarco paid him out of Logan Maddox's campaign fund to try to snatch Ronnie."

"And Maddox, realizing he'd been duped, turned state's evidence on DiMarco this morning.", Reggie added. "It'll be front page news tomorrow morning."

"Now, you're off the hook.", Betty told Veronica. "You probably have your next assignment waiting for you."

"No, I don't.", Ronnie said. "They let me go in favor of another blonde. You know how that works."

"Unfortunately, it's the truth.", Reggie put in. "Some editors see something intangible in a blonde, female reporter-photographer, regardless of experience. That's just the way it works in media."

"As they say, sex sells.", Betty added. "You can always go back to the fashion business, Ron."

"Nope. I'll finish college, and figure it out after that."
=====================================
End book 2.
 

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