Henry was wandering back from the bathroom when he saw the light was still on in Shawn’s room. He frowned and opened the door. Shawn was balanced on a footstool, wide-eyed and intent, putting a little Lego flag on the top of a Lego castle spire.
“Shawn, what are you doing?”
Shawn tumbled from the stool in surprise, before blinking up at his father in confusion. “I’m building a Lego palace,” he explained, after a moment.
“It’s three in the morning,” Henry snapped.
“I know! Do you even realize how much you can do if you don’t go to sleep?” Shawn asked. “It’s like having a whole extra day. I don’t know why no one’s thought of this before.”
Henry’s eyes were narrowed. “Are you on drugs?”
“Dad, I’m nine,” Shawn said wryly. “My drug of choice is a Pixy Stix.”
“Just checking,” Henry said, fighting back a grin. He grabbed Shawn up in one arm and carried him back to his bed, before standing him on top of it and meeting his eyes. “You need to sleep.”
“I don’t have time to sleep!” Shawn protested. “I have to build the Lego palace!”
“It’ll still be there in the morning,” Henry said.
“It’ll still be half-finished in the morning,” Shawn said. “If I finish it now it’ll be done. You’re the one that always tells me not to procrastinate.”
“With homework, Shawn,” Henry said.
”That’s a double-standard!” Shawn protested.
“How long have you been doing this?” Henry asked, narrowing his eyes as he looked his son over. It unnerved him that this had been going on and he hadn’t even noticed. “When was the last time you slept?”
“I don’t know, Sunday, maybe? And for like an hour in class yesterday,” Shawn said. “But I’m wide-awake.”
Henry sighed, pulling back the covers of Shawn’s A-Team sheets. “Get in,” he said.
Shawn reluctantly slid into the bed. “Okay, but I’m telling you, sleep is superfluous,” he said.
“Gus teach you that word?” Henry asked.
“No, I was reading the dictionary last night when I couldn’t sleep,” Shawn explained.
Henry considered for a moment letting Shawn play this little experiment out, but he was exhausted, and he knew that Shawn had to be too. Bribery couldn’t hurt, just this once.
“If you go to sleep, I’ll give you a Pixy Stix,” Henry told him.
“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Shawn said, and reached out to shake his hand.
"I think I should sue for false advertising," Shawn said. "That movie had absolutely nothing to do with pineapples!"
Lassiter tried to ignore him, but Spencer was being even more obnoxious than usual. He didn't know what the fake psychic was even doing here; they hadn't called him in on a case since what had happened with Drimmer.
Lassiter finally bowed to the inevitable and glanced up to where Spencer was regaling Buzz with the virtues and pitfalls of something he called a 'bromance.' His hair was sticking up and his eyes were kind of wild, but there really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about that. He couldn't seem to stop moving, and was bouncing on the heels of his feet, an unzipped hooded sweater falling a little further off his shoulder with each bounce, revealing a faded Knight Rider T-shirt underneath.
Lassiter noticed Juliet and Guster standing nearby watching the show as well, and he walked over to join them. "What the hell's wrong with him?" he asked. "He looks even more...him, than usual."
"Shawn hasn't slept in two days," Gus said wearily.
Juliet scrunched up her face. "Why not?"
"I have no idea," Gus said. "Shawn usually only sleeps about three to five hours a night anyway, but his insomnia's gotten worse lately."
Juliet frowned in sympathy. "Is this a side effect of his gift?" she asked.
"No," Gus said with a sigh. "This is just because he's Shawn."
"Lassie!" Lassiter groaned as he was spotted, and Shawn came running up to him. He had an unopened Red Bull stuck down the waistband of his jeans. "You haven't called us in weeks! I'm going to start thinking that you don't want me around."
"I don't want you around," Lassiter said. "And even if I did, you just got out of the hospital from that thing with--"
"I was in the hospital for like five minutes, they gave me aspirin and blinded me with a pen light, and that was two weeks ago," Shawn said in a rush. "I'm ready to solve crime."
"Well, there's nothing for you right now," Juliet said gently. "Maybe you should go home and get some rest."
"What is this?" Shawn asked, looking from Juliet to Lassiter and back again. "I didn't do anything wrong, you know!"
"No one is saying that," Juliet said softly.
"This time, anyway," Lassiter muttered to himself.
Shawn's eyes narrowed in his direction, and Lassiter knew he'd caught ever word. “For your information, this wasn’t anything new. Lots of people have tried to kill me before, going back years and years. I’m convinced that Carlton Baker was poisoning my Hi C in third grade, and that’s not all, Marty Stein--"
“Carlton was not poisoning your Hi C, Shawn,” Gus interrupted.
“You can’t possibly know that for sure,” Shawn told him. “I’ve got bad karma with Carltons.”
“Regardless,” Lassiter broke in hotly. “None of them were people who were supposed to protect you. This is different.”
“It isn’t,” Shawn said. “Come on, you guys know you miss me, at least a little, right?”
"Spencer, I wouldn't want your help on a good day," Lassiter said. "And this looks anything but like a good day for you. Go home."
Juliet smiled sadly. “We’ll call you soon, okay? Just get some rest.”
Gus waited until they had walked back to their desks before turning to Shawn. "Okay, let's go."
“Did you see that? I think we just got broken up with! That was the don’t call me, I’ll call you, we’ll get together, really, brush off that means they aren’t ever going to call us again!”
“Shawn, calm down, that isn’t what they said at all,” Gus said. “Seriously, lets just get you home so you can sleep.”
“No, you go,” Shawn said. “I wasn’t finished talking to Buzz.”
“Shawn—” Gus started, obviously not happy about the thought of leaving him here. “You need to leave Lassiter alone.”
“Who said anything about Lassiter? I said I was going to talk to Buzz,” Shawn said.
”I know what you said,” Gus said, and sighed in resignation. “Just be careful. Call me if you need me to bail you out.”
“Of course! You know you’ll always be my one phone call,” Shawn called after him. Shawn waited until Gus was out of sight before wandering back towards Lassiter’s desk.
He’d mostly been kidding about Juliet and Lassiter giving them some kind of permanent brush off, but only mostly. The incident with Drimmer had changed things, Shawn knew. It’s not that it bothered him personally, he handled it fine, he was over it already.
But he knew that Henry had been giving Vick hell about letting Shawn get involved in the first place, and she was reluctant to let him take on another case. Lassiter was, of course, quick to jump on the bandwagon and try to lock them out. Shawn was going to have to be his usual brilliant, indispensable self, if he wanted to get back on the SBPD payroll.
It wasn’t going to be easy to do while sleep deprived, but that was why the world had Red Bull. He cracked open another one, and jumped back, startled, as it was ripped from his hands before he could take a sip. He was jittery like an addict as he watched, as if in slow motion, the beautiful blue and silver piece of mastery drop into the trash can at his feet.
"I think you're wired enough, don't you?" Lassiter asked, dusting off his hands casually.
Shawn gaped sadly at his Red Bull, looking up to protest the cruelty against energy drinks, before getting sidetracked by what he saw laid out right in front of him. He bit back a grin, and looked up to meet Lassiter’s eyes. "Don't take it out on the Red Bull just because one of your arrests escaped from prison," he said.
Lassiter frowned as Shawn pulled another Red Bull from god knew where, and made a show of popping it open and drinking it half down in one go. "Is that supposed to impress me, Spencer? It's all over the news, you could have heard about it anywhere," Lassiter said.
"I don't watch the news anymore," Shawn said. "I've been boycotting the media since they fired that adorable weather girl. I did, however, happen to notice that you left the case file open on your desk."
Lassiter lunged forward to close it and put it in a drawer, and then he grabbed Shawn's arm and led him away. "Since your better half isn't here to take notes, I'm going to need you to listen very carefully to me, do you understand, Spencer? Nod if you do."
Shawn obediently nodded, all the while staring at where Lassiter’s hand was gripping his arm like he couldn’t understand where it had come from.
"This is not your case, this is not going to be your case, and you are not going to involve yourself in this case," Lassiter snapped. "This man is dangerous. You're not going to go near him. Are we clear?"
"No, not really," Shawn said, looking up from Lassiter’s hand to meet his eyes. "Actually, I'm confused."
Lassiter let go of his arm and reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose. "I don't think I can make it any clearer, Spencer."
"No, I understand the instructions," Shawn said. "But...are you worried about me? Because usually you just say, none of your shenanigans! Or get the hell out of here, Spencer, before I arrest you for solving my case! Which always makes that little vein in your forehead throb. But now you're all, stay out of it because he's dangerous! And I'm just terribly confused because it sounds a little like you care."
“I apologize if I’ve given you that impression,” Lassiter said. “I assure you that’s not the case. I just want you to stay out of my way, okay? And also, I’ve never said shenanigans.”
“That’s a bold faced lie,” Shawn said. “You said it just now.”
Lassiter was itching to grab Shawn again and toss him from the precinct, but the images of Drimmer knocking him around were a little too fresh in his mind, and he wanted to avoid any semblance of similarity. He opened his mouth to ask again, as politely as he could, for Shawn to just stay out of this, when his answering machine clicked on.
He hadn’t even heard his phone ringing, but he went white as he registered the voice.
“Hey, Lassiter, guess who? I’m gonna make you see what you’ve done. If you’re really the cop you think you are, you’ll meet me back where it began, alone this time.”
Lassiter finally sprung into action, leaping to grab up the phone. “Riner? Riner!”
Shawn was watching him carefully. Cyril Riner was the name of the man that had escaped, Shawn had seen that much in the file before Lassiter had taken it away, along with some pictures of footprints and the murder weapon, a blood stained revolver. “Back where it began? Where is that?” Shawn asked.
Lassiter was still clutching the phone, like holding onto it could catch the man that had just been on the other end of the line, and he looked up, bemused, when Shawn spoke, like he had forgotten he was there. As if he was just coming awake, he slammed the phone down and stepped back over to Shawn.
“What did I just say?” Lassiter demanded. “Stay out of this, Spencer.”
Shawn frowned. “You’re not going alone, right?” he asked. “You’re going to call in the Marshals and the Helicopters and all that, right?”
“Riner’s left me a dozen messages since he escaped last week,” Lassiter said. “We’ve done the whole Marshals and Helicopters thing, he’s always gone when we get there.”
“But you’re not going alone, right?” Shawn asked again. “Because that would be stupid. Hey, I’ve got an idea! You should take me!”
Lassiter frowned. “Come with me, I want to show you something.” Lassiter headed off down the hall, and intrigued, Shawn followed him. They went into one of the lesser used records rooms, one that Shawn didn’t remember ever visiting it before.
“What’s in here?” he asked, and he started to turn around when he felt something cold go around his right wrist. He glanced around, disbelieving, as Lassiter handcuffed him to the nearest file cabinet.
“I just know you weren’t going to listen when I said to stay out of this,” Lassiter said.
“Lassie!” Shawn protested. “You can’t just handcuff perfectly innocent people to things! There’s a law!”
“I’m preventing you from obstructing justice,” Lassiter said, heading towards the door. “Be thankful I’m being generous enough not to just arrest you.”
“Hey! Hey, wait!” Shawn protested, but Lassiter had already shut the door, and Shawn could hear the click as he locked it, too.
Shawn bit his lip and pulled absently at the cuff, glancing around to see if there was anything he could use to pick the lock. He could always call Gus and tell him that he really did, kind of, sort of, need him to come bail him out, but he didn’t really want to give him the satisfaction, and Gus would never let him follow Lassiter to wherever it was he’d gone.
Shawn grinned as brilliance struck, and pulled his cellphone out. “Hey, Buzz? Can I please see you for a moment in records room C?”
Buzz was cautiously poking his head in a moment later. “Should you be in here?” he asked, before his eyes followed Shawn’s arm up to its wrist, where it was attached to the file cabinet. “Why are you handcuffed to the file cabinet?”
“Funny story,” Shawn said. “I was testing whether or not my powers extended into the realm of magic, and so started practicing a Houdini act. You know, locked room, in handcuffs, miraculous escape!”
“Cool!” Buzz said, delighted. “Do you want me to lock the door again?”
“Well, actually, it turns out my powers are pretty much confined to the mental realm, and so now I’m stuck,” Shawn said. “You got a key for these things?”
“Oh, sure,” Buzz said. He pulled out his key ring and unhooked the cuffs. Shawn brought his arm down gratefully. “You should probably have started a little smaller. My nephew has these trick cuffs, they keep him happy for hours.”
“I think this marks the end of my magical career, sadly,” Shawn says. “I’ll stick to clairvoyance.” Shawn started to head out, before pausing and turning back to face Buzz. “One more thing, you know that Riner case?”
“Sure,” Buzz said, nodding enthusiastically. “It was one of Lassiter’s biggest cases. It was all over the news when it happened. You don’t remember? The Dah-Ling Darling? I just can’t believe Riner’s escaped.”
Shawn scanned backwards through his memories, and then it clicked. He remembered hearing it on the news a couple of years ago, a security guard had been killed in a robbery attempt. “The murder at the Dah-Ling Store-It-Yourself,” he said, starting from the room. “Thanks, Buzz! You’ve been a great help!”
“No problem!” Buzz called after him. “Hey, are these Lassiter’s cuffs?”
Shawn kept moving, and pulled out his phone to call a cab. Gus had given him a ride here, and Shawn had planned to just walk home, but now he didn’t have time. He was probably running out of it already.
He knew he should probably find Jules or Chief Vick and let them know where Lassiter was, but Shawn had a feeling if he sent in the cavalry Riner would simply disappear as he apparently had before.
Lassiter might have a shot if he was really there alone, or mostly alone. Shawn would be his back up, whether he wanted it or not.
x x x x x x
The murder at the Dah-Ling Store-It-Yourself had been an open-shut case, and so Shawn had never really taken much interest in it. The proprietor's daughter, dubbed by the press as the Dah-Ling Darling, had caught the murderer red handed and held him at gunpoint until the police could arrive.
She’d been the media’s darling for fifteen whole minutes at least, admired partly because of the courageous act, and partly just for being drop dead gorgeous.
Shawn was having trouble remembering too much about the murderer. The case itself had been rather uninteresting. Riner had been trying to break into one of the storage units, he’d been caught by the guard, and had shot him in a panic. The media hadn’t much cared for any of this. They’d pointed all their cameras at Ava Dah-Ling, and her tearful accounts of her harrowing experience, her testaments about the need to avenge the guard whose name she probably didn’t even remember, and even Shawn couldn’t remember, thinking back.
Shawn had the cab drop him off at the corner and walked down the street towards the Store-It-Yourself. The fence was starting to rust, and there was a crooked “No Trespassing” sign hanging off the gate. Shawn looked past it to the building.
It didn’t look like the building had received much use in the two years since the murder. The giant neon sign on the roof had seen better days, and like a kind of Wheel of Fortune puzzle, it was missing most of the vowels. The building was covered with a lot of graffiti that also contained dubious spelling, which in some ways was reassuring. No one seemed to have any trouble bypassing the fence.
Shawn glanced down at the lock, only to see that it was hanging unlatched. When he reached out to poke the fence, it swung open wide. “Spooky,” he said.
Shawn cautiously stepped inside, suddenly wishing for Gus, so that Shawn could pretend to be the brave one. Gus always made it easier to look manly, because it wasn’t hard to one-up all that running away and girly screaming. It was much harder to be brave out here in the dark, all alone, with a crazy gun-wielding maniac somewhere nearby.
And then there was Riner to worry about, too.
Shawn walked down the first alleyway, reading off the numbers on the compartments. He closed his eyes for a moment, going back to Lassiter’s desk and the open file. He remembered seeing a number on the orange storage compartment door right beside the shot of the footprints—number thirty-six.
He was at fourteen. He glanced down the row, but couldn’t see anyone else, so he moved down to the next row, and then the one after that. He found compartment thirty-two, and followed it down. Compartment thirty-six was standing open, the garage-style door pulled all the way up to the ceiling. Shawn peeked around inside, but it was just an empty space.
He started to turn around again, when someone grabbed him from behind, putting a hand over his mouth and dragging him into the compartment. Shawn was just about to start biting and kicking and screaming in Gus-inspired fashion when he recognized the aftershave. He reached up to pull the hand off his mouth, and gasped for breath.
“I usually expect dinner before I let anyone get to second base,” he said.
“Shut up, Spencer,” Lassiter said, spinning him around so they were face to face. “What the hell are you doing here? How did you even get out of the cuffs?”
“Please, like that was ever going to stop me,” Shawn said. “Now, if you’d put me in an airtight coffin and dropped me into the deepest depths of the sea, then maybe you might have been rid of me.”
“I’ll keep that in mind for next time,” Lassiter snapped. “As for now, I get to drag you out of the area instead of tracking down a very dangerous suspect. Good work.”
“But you don’t have to,” Shawn protested. “I’m here to help!”
“Keep your voice down,” Lassiter hissed. “You’re a civilian, Spencer. I’m the first to admit, sometimes I forget that, but if these last weeks have taught me anything, it’s that you don’t belong here.”
“You never forget that I’m a civilian,” Shawn argued. “You remind me like every five minutes.”
“Okay, maybe it’s just the part where you’re included in with the people I’m supposed to protect and serve that I forget,” Lassiter said. “But we’re going back to the station, and this time? This time I’m pressing charges.”
“For what?” Shawn demanded.
“Trespassing,” Lassiter said.
“And you’re doing what?” Shawn asked.
“I’m an officer of the law,” Lassiter said.
“Well, you left the gate open, and I was a concerned citizen,” Shawn said. “If anyone’s going to be in trouble with Vick over this, it’s you, and we both know it.”
“We’ll see,” Lassiter said, and started to drag Shawn back towards the exit.
Shawn dug his heels in. “Wait,” he whispered. “I think he’s here—I think we’re being watched.”
Lassiter glared at him, but knew better by now than to ignore a warning from Shawn, fake psychic or not. He pulled out his gun and pointed it to the ground. "Stay here," he said, before scanning the ally. He did a quick perimeter, walking to the end of the row, and then shook his head. "There's no one here, Spencer."
He turned back around when Spencer didn’t answer. Riner was standing behind the psychic, holding a gun underneath Shawn’s chin, pointed straight up.
"I think I found him," Shawn said.
Lassiter’s expression went stony, and he took an unconscious step forward, his gun going up to aim just to the left of Shawn’s head. It had gotten dark almost without his notice, and as he tried to track Cyril’s movements he was having trouble making everything out, distinguishing between what parts belonged to Cyril, and what parts belonged to Shawn.
Cyril pulled Shawn back against him and started dragging him towards the gate. "Stay back, Lassiter," he yelled hoarsely. "You want me to kill him? I said stay back!"
Lassiter stopped moving, but kept his gun aimed straight ahead. “Let him go.”
“Not until we talk,” Cyril said. “I’ve finally got you in a position where you have to listen to me, so you’re sure as hell going to listen.”
“Soon as you let him go, you can say whatever you want,” Lassiter said.
"I didn't kill that guard," Cyril said. "I told you that. Someone else killed him, I’ve never killed anyone in my life. At least, I haven’t yet."
Shawn looked down at the concrete, tilting his head at the muddy footprints that Cyril had left behind. The muzzle of the gun was pressing in on his throat, so he lifted his head back and closed his eyes for a moment, recalling the crime scene photo of the pair of bloody footprints that had been discovered beside the body. The picture had shown them with a ruler laid beside them for perspective--they had been a size thirteen, huge, Cyril was a size ten, if that.
"Wait!" Shawn shouted, throwing his arms out and stopping Cyril’s slow progress of moving them towards the gate. "Wait, Lassie, I think he might be telling the truth. The shoe prints! The prints, at the crime scene, they weren't his."
Lassiter didn’t lower his gun, and he kept his eyes on Cyril. "Yeah, Spencer, we know that, but tons of people walked through there. It could have been a paramedic, or even a rookie," he said. “We were able to convict him just fine without having a pair of shoe prints.”
“It was James,” Cyril protested. “I’ve been keeping track of your career, Lassiter, and if you’re such a good cop, then you’ll take another look at my case.”
Shawn listened to the sound of Cyril’s voice. It was edgy and slightly frantic, had the kind of paranoid edge a man on the run should, but he didn’t sound like he was lying. Anyway, Shawn’s seen The Fugitive about a million times, and the wrongly convicted men always stuck around to clear their names—the guilty ones, they just ran.
“You want the truth?” Lassiter asked. “Right now, I don’t care if you killed that guard or not. What I care about is that you're holding a gun to his head. You want to talk? Fine, we’ll talk. But first you let him go."
”I’ve been trying to get you to talk to me for two years,” Cyril said. “I’ve lodged more than a dozen appeals. No one’s paid any attention. I’m not going to give up any advantage I can get.”
“You’re not doing anything for your case,” Lassiter said. “Innocent men don’t take hostages.”
“I said I didn’t kill that guard, I never said I was innocent,” Cyril said, and moved the gun from Shawn’s neck, holding it ahead of him to take aim and fire.
The single security light went out in a shower of sparks as the bullet shattered it to pieces, and Shawn felt the gun jam into his back to push him forward. Lassiter was shouting behind them, but the spooky atmosphere that Shawn had noted when he arrived had gone from the mild levels of Scary Movie to something closer resembling Halloween, and it was too dark to see hardly anything at all.
Cyril dragged them to a beat-up Chevy truck parked half on the curb, and took him around to the driver’s side, shoving Shawn up and in, forcing him to slide across to the passenger seat. Shawn reached for the handle on the door, but Cyril was already pulling away with a speed of acceleration even Mario Andretti could envy.
Cyril was leaving his headlights off, and spinning them off onto some kind of back road. He was still holding the gun in one hand while he drove, turning the wheel deftly with his left hand, while he kept the gun aimed just inches from Shawn’s side with his right.
Cyril glanced over at Shawn for a moment, before looking back towards the road. “You’re that guy, right, from the TV?”
“I think you’re probably thinking of John Cusack, but don’t feel bad, you’re not the first to note the resemblance,” Shawn said.
Cyril looked confused. “What? No. I mean that psychic guy, right? You solved all those cases.”
“Oh,” Shawn said. “Now you’re thinking of Shawn Spencer, am I right? Gee, I really wish I were, I hear he’s a handsome devil.”
“That’s what Lassiter called you, he called you Spencer,” Cyril said.
“Spenstar, Shawn Spenstar,” Shawn corrected. “You might recognize me from my brief success on American Duos, but Hollywood’s so fickle. Now I can’t even get an interview and Nigel St. Nigel won’t take my calls.”
“Let’s make this simple,” Cyril said. “I know you’re Shawn Spencer, and you’re going to prove me innocent, or I’m going to kill you.”
“In that case, Shawn Spencer, at your service,” Shawn said.
Cyril turned on the headlights as they spun out onto a main road. Shawn winced as he noticed the welcome sign, announcing their arrival in Summerland. Shawn thought this was actually a pretty good place to come if you were on the run, because who would ever think to look here? Santa Barbara forgot this place existed all the time.
“If I’m going to clear your good name,” Shawn said, “I’m going to need some basic essentials.”
Cyril seemed suspicious. “Like what?”
“A notepad, a pencil, a yellow number 2 one, the number is very important, and about three cases of Red Bull,” Shawn said.
“Three cases of Red Bull?” Cyril repeated. He looked at Shawn doubtfully, like he was starting to believe that he really had just picked up some crazy Duos reject and not Santa Barbara’s most renowned psychic.
“I’m boycotting sleep,” Shawn explained. “If you’d like me to remain conscious whilst I investigate your case, then that’s a must.”
“You’re not right in the head, are you?” Cyril asked.
“It’s weird how often people ask me that,” Shawn said, but didn’t dwell on it. “I’m also going to need to call Lassiter.”
Cyril pulled into a Seven Eleven and looked at him strangely. “No,” he snapped. “He’s never going to help me. I thought I could get him to listen, but it’s obviously not going to happen. I was lucky you were there.”
“One man’s luck is another man’s hostage experience,” Shawn said. “But seriously. I’m going to need to call him. It’s in your own best interests, if you really are innocent. You want them to reopen your case, right?”
“Yes, but right now, all they’re going to be doing is looking for you,” Cyril snapped.
“That’s because you abducted me at gunpoint instead of making an appointment like everyone else,” Shawn said. “Let me talk to Lassiter, for exactly the reason you just pointed out. I’ve got to make them understand that the best way to get me out of this situation is the same best way to get you out of yours, prove you didn’t kill anyone.”
“Fine,” Cyril said.
“Good,” Shawn said. “But first you have to explain to me who really did kill that guard.”
Cyril nodded, glancing around in all directions rather shiftily, as though he expected a police armada to move out of the darkness and surround them. “I admitted that I was there to rob the place, but I wasn’t alone. I had a partner. James Clavor. He’s the guy that set the whole thing up, I didn’t even know what we were there to take. It happened almost exactly like they say, except it was Clavor that shot that guard, and not me.”
“But you’re the one that Dah-Ling found standing over the body,” Shawn said.
“Yeah, bad timing,” Cyril said. “She came running out of the office after Clavor was already gone. I’d stayed to see if the poor guy was still alive, so there I was, kneeling beside him, Clavor’s gun on the ground right beside me.”
“What about fingerprints?” Shawn asked.
“They didn’t have mine on the weapon, but they didn’t have his, either,” Cyril said. “We were both wearing gloves.”
“Why didn’t you tell the police any of this?” Shawn asked.
“You think I didn’t?” he asked. “They tell me James Clavor doesn’t exist. They think I made him up.”
“Hmm,” Shawn said. “Okay, give me your phone.”
“You don’t have a phone?” Cyril asked incredulously.
“It got repossessed,” Shawn explained.
“They repossess phones?” Cyril asked.
“Sure,” Shawn said. “On those Verizon commercials they make it look really cool to have all those people following you around, but they turn on you if you forget to pay your bill.”
Cyril sighed and handed over a phone. It was one of those disposable types, and looked to be almost out of minutes. Shawn kept track of Cyril out of the corner of his eye, as the other man seemed to forget he was supposed to be holding him at gunpoint, and then he started dialing the phone.
“Lassiter.” Lassiter sounded tense, and dare Shawn think it—worried.
“Hey, Lassie,” he said, and then, without preamble, “I think you need to start looking through your suspects again.”
“Spencer?” Lassiter’s voice went strange, kind of disbelieving and startled, breathless with something like relief. “Where are you?”
“I don’t want you to let anyone worry about me, okay? I’m fine. And in the name of all that’s holy, don’t call my dad,” Shawn said.
“Tell me where you are!” Lassiter snapped. “I’m going to come get you.”
“He's not going to let me tell you that,” Shawn said. “You need to listen to me. He didn't do it. I mean, he did totally try to rob the place, but he didn't kill anyone.”
“Give me a hint, Spencer,” Lassiter said. “Come on. Something to help us find you.”
“I think you need to start with Clavor,” Shawn said. “But he might not be easy to find.”
“Because he doesn't exist!” Lassiter shouted.
“I said it wouldn't be easy,” Shawn told him, and then Cyril grabbed the phone back and hung up.
“You really think he’s going to pay any attention to what you said?” Cyril asked.
“Well, I have to be honest, if he does pay any attention to what I said, it’ll certainly be a first,” Shawn said.
“Wonderful,” Cyril said.
“I need more Red Bull,” Shawn said. “If we’re on our own, my mind’s gotta be at its best, and there’s nothing like nearly lethal doses of taurine and caffeine to get the ole’ grey matter at 100%.”
“Fine, whatever,” Cyril said, “but we’re going in together, and if you try anything, I’m going to shoot the cashier, and probably you, too.”
“Understood,” Shawn said. “However, I feel obligated to point out that committing a double homicide kind of defeats the purpose of trying to clear yourself of a single murder charge.”
“You’re my last shot at proving I’m innocent,” Cyril said. “If I don’t have your help, I don’t have anything left to lose, so I might as well take you with me.”
Shawn nodded. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll be on my best behavior.”
Cyril looked anything but trusting, but Shawn slid out of the car and stuck his hands in his pockets. His diet of no sleep and all Red Bull had been working really well the last few days, but his last few days had consisted mostly of hanging around the Psych office trying to save Princess Peach from Bowser, and he had to admit he probably wasn’t at his best for solving crime.
But that didn’t really matter, because Shawn wasn’t really getting a choice. This wasn’t a job he could turn down, and anyway, even if his body was getting twitchy, Shawn’s mind was as sharp as ever. He could solve crime in his sleep. Probably.
He led the way into the Seven Eleven and made a beeline for the refrigerators at the back, pulling out Red Bull and stacking it up in his arms. Cyril was behind him, the protrusion in the side pocket of his jacket standing out prominently, and he hoped the cashier didn’t notice. Cyril was being pretty obvious about being armed, and Shawn was trying really hard not to channel Mae West.
Shawn didn’t bother to try and explain it to him, but Cyril really didn’t have any reason to be so worried.
Shawn had no intentions of making a break for it. It may not have happened exactly the way he’d planned, but he’d gotten that case he’d been looking for.
x x x x x x
Lassiter let out a frustrated cry and threw his cellphone against the side of the Store-It-Yourself. “God damn it!” he shouted.
Juliet was hovering, concerned, by his side. “Was that Shawn? Do you know where he is?”
“No,” Lassiter snapped. “Riner was listening. All Spencer would say was that Riner was innocent, and we had to reopen the case, and look into James Clavor.”
Juliet frowned. “James Clavor? I don’t remember seeing him on the list of suspects.”
And Juliet would know. She may not have been here at the time of the case, but she’d read the case reports cover to cover twice since Riner had escaped.
“You might remember him being mentioned in one of the transcripts of Riner’s interviews,” Lassiter said.
Juliet’s eyes widened. “Right! Of course. He claimed Clavor was the murderer.”
“Clavor was a fiction,” Lassiter said. “Riner made him up. We did look for the guy, we even had a sketch artist draw up a profile, we ran the name through every system we have, we checked for fingerprints. There was no evidence whatsoever that Riner had a partner with him that night.”
“Do you think Shawn really believes him?” Juliet asked quietly. “Or is he just playing along?”
“You didn’t see Spencer that night with Drimmer,” Lassiter said quietly. “He says whatever he thinks, whether he’s got a gun on him or not. And if we don’t find him fast, it’s going to get him killed.”
“But if he really believes Riner, then Riner is going to want to keep him around, he’s going to find him useful,” Juliet protested.
“And he’s going to kill him the moment Spencer figures out the truth, as he inevitably always does,” Lassiter said grimly. “And the truth is that there wasn’t anyone there with Riner that night, he killed that man himself.”
Juliet bit her lip. Lassiter was her partner and she took that very seriously, she backed him up no question—but there was one thing they never could quite seem to agree on it, and that was Shawn Spencer. Juliet didn’t know if Shawn really talked to spirits, she didn’t know if he was really psychic, she just knew that so far he’d nearly always been right.
“What if he didn’t?” she asked hesitantly. “What if Shawn’s right?”
Lassiter went still. “Then I put an innocent man in jail.”
“He still did the robbery, that would have put him away at least this long,” Juliet said. “But we need to find the truth, one way or another. I think we should do as Shawn says.”
Lassiter turned to her, his face stony. “Go ahead, then,” he said. “You look for some phantom killer, and while you’re doing that, I’ll look for Spencer.”
“Lassiter!” Juliet called as he started to head off. She cut him off and came to a stop in front of him. “You know I want to find him too. We need to work together.” She paused, noticing the way that he wouldn’t quite meet her eyes. “None of this is your fault, you know that, right?”
“Some of it’s his fault,” Vick snapped, as she came up behind them. “What the hell were you thinking, Detective?”
“Chief,” Lassiter said, looking horrified. “I hope you don’t think that I . . . I never would have allowed a civilian to accompany—”
“I know you’re not responsible for Mr. Spencer getting himself into trouble, but that doesn’t explain what you were doing here in the first place,” Vick said curtly.
“We tried to surround him at a meeting, it wasn’t working,” Lassiter said. “I thought I might have a chance if I did as he said and came alone, but Spencer heard the same message as I did, and figured out what it meant somehow.”
“Does that really surprise you?” Vick asked.
“No, that’s why I handcuffed him to a file cabinet in the records room,” Lassiter explained. “I have no idea how he got out.”
There was a gasp from somewhere nearby, and Vick, Juliet and Lassiter all turned to look at where Buzz stood by the number thirty-six storage room. “He told me he was practicing a magic trick!” he said.
“Of course he did,” Lassiter said tiredly. “And of course you believed him.”
“It seemed like something he would do,” Buzz said miserably.
“You can’t really argue with that,” Juliet pointed out.
“However he got here, we need to focus right now on getting him back,” Vick said. “We’re going to have to go to the media. I want Spencer on every station. Someone has to spot him somewhere, he’s usually kind of hard to miss.” Vick turned to eye Lassiter speculatively. “We’ll finish this discussion later. Right now, I need you to call Henry Spencer.”
Lassiter’s eyes widened. “What?”
“We have to tell him what’s happened before it hits every news station in Santa Barbara,” she said. “Since you were with Mr. Spencer when it happened, it gets to be you.”
Vick didn’t stick around to hear his protests. She stormed off, shouting for someone to arrange a press conference, and people cowered in her wake. Lassiter walked over to pick his bent, dented cellphone up off the ground, and stared at it in horror.
He tentatively held it out to Juliet. “O’Hara, maybe you should—”
“I don’t think so,” she said quickly. “I’m too young to die.”
Shawn had always been a little too smart for his own good. No one ever knows what to do with a prodigy—move them forward three grades, hold them back for another year. He won’t stop talking, his teachers always said. Or, he won’t focus on the work.
But Shawn always passed his tests with flying colors when exam time came. Used to drive Gus nuts that he didn’t even have to study to do it.
Henry honestly didn’t know where he’d gone wrong.
Shawn should have been a cop. He had it in his blood. He was that kind of rare detective that you could usually only find in Sherlock Holmes. Henry had resented Shawn for years for giving it all up to be a river-rafting tour guide, a bartender, an ice-cream taster, and god knew what else.
But there were times when Henry was secretly relieved, when he thought it was better this way, better that Shawn didn’t have to see the things he’d seen, or do the things he’d done, or put his life on the line every single day.
And then this job came along, where Shawn could do all of those things without even having to follow the rules that might save him.
Henry really shouldn’t be so surprised that this call finally came.
“You want to say that to me again?” he growled.
“Your son’s been taken hostage by Cyril Riner.” Lassiter didn’t sound like his usual matter-of-fact self, Lassiter sounded worried. And that scared Henry most of all.
“Where is he?” Henry demanded. “What’s being done?”
”We don’t know,” Lassiter said. “But we’ll find him. That’s a promise.”
“You’ve been at this job long enough to know better than to make promises,” Henry snapped.
“I’ve been at it long enough to know you only make the ones you can keep,” Lassiter said. “I will find him.”
Henry wasn’t reassured, because he was doing this job when Lassiter was a kindergartner, and he knew all the tricks. That was one promise you were allowed to make. You could say, we’ll find him. You couldn’t say, we’ll find him alive.
Because you only made the promises you could keep.
“I’m coming to the station,” Henry said.
“That’s not neccess—” Henry hung up on him.
The thing about Shawn was that he wasn’t at all the son that Henry had wanted. He was careless, reckless, thoughtless, and as always, too smart for his own good.
None of that mattered, of course. He still loved him so much it hurt.
Mostly Shawn suspected this was because the cashier was actually sleep-working. He was wearing a nametag that said Tad, and he took their money and bagged their stuff all while looking past them with the kind of vacant stare Shawn only ever expected to encounter on a zombie. You know, if he encountered zombies outside of Resident Evil.
They got back in the truck and Cyril pulled up to the one of the gas pumps. “I need to fill up,” he said. “You stay here or—”
“Or you’ll go on a killing spree, bad things will happen, lots of death and mayhem, got it,” Shawn said.
Cyril frowned at him. “I have a feeling you’re not taking me seriously.”
“Don’t take it personally,” Shawn said. “I don’t take anything seriously.”
Cyril slammed the door on him, and Shawn leaned forward, watching as he tried to feed a twenty into the Quick Pay machine. It kept spitting it back out, so Shawn figured he had a few minutes. He could, of course, always open the door and make a run back to the zombie-cashier, but honestly, he felt safer with Cyril, and anyway, he had a case to solve.
Instead he pulled out the notepad, and his pencil, and scribbled a note on each side, before folding it in half and sticking it in the glove box. Then he took out his cellphone, and started text-ing Lassiter.
Spencer where are you?
am ok slving case dnt wory u'll get frwn lines h n k
where are you? how are you texting?
Stl hve my phne. wrst kdnpr evr. lmao.
"Are you text messaging?" Cyril shouted, leaning into the car to snatch the phone out of his hands. "Give me that! I thought the ‘Can you hear me now’ guy stole your phone back? Christ, you're like the worst hostage ever!"
Cyril climbed into the truck, scrolling back through the messages to see what had been said.
"Sorry, I flunked out of hostage school," Shawn told him. "But you're not doing so great as a kidnapper either. For instance, you're not a killer."
"That's what I've been saying," Cyril said.
"Exactly, but I have no fear for my life," Shawn explained. "You've had the safety on your gun this whole time, and there’s not even any bullets in it. You used your last one to shoot out the light."
Cyril frowned, tossing the gun on the seat between them after a moment, with a resigned sigh. "Then why did you come with me?"
"Well, I didn't know that at the time, and you are kind of scary looking," Shawn conceded. Cyril had probably been called ruggedly handsome once, like that Brawny towel guy, but he’d since acquired scars down beside his right eye and across the left side of his chin, and his eyes were perpetually narrowed, suspicious of everything they saw.
"Two years in prison'll do that to a guy," he said after a moment. Cyril looked down at the phone. “What the hell is H and K?”
“Hugs and Kisses,” Shawn explained, unabashedly.
“You're sending hugs and kisses to Lassiter?” Cyril asked, disbelievingly.
“He's a big softy, really,” Shawn said. “Those little signs of affection are good for him. It makes him feel appreciated.”
Cyril looked a little pale. “Oh my god, are you Lassiter’s boyfriend? Have I kidnapped Lassiter’s boyfriend?”
"Not at all, but if it makes you feel better, you're not the first to think we were lovers," Shawn told him primly. "The last guy that kidnapped me thought so too."
“The last guy to kidnap you?” Cyril asked. “How often does this happen to you?”
“More often than you’d think, honestly,” Shawn said.
Cyril started to turn the key to start the truck, but hesitated. “What happened to him? The last guy to kidnap you?”
“Lassiter killed him with the gun he keeps in the peanuts,” Shawn said. Cyril looked a little sick, and Shawn felt obligated to reassure him. “Don’t worry, that guy really was a murderer. This is totally different.”
“But Lassiter doesn’t know that,” Cyril said.
Shawn frowned, realizing he was right. “I can handle Lassiter,” he said.
“You’ve got to stop contacting him, you’re only making things worse,” Cyril said.
“Au contraire,” Shawn said. “It’s pissing him off. And Lassie doesn’t think clearly when he’s angry.”
Cyril peeled out of the lot and turned back onto a main road. “The last thing I want is to make Lassiter angrier.”
“Really?” Shawn asked. “Personally, it’s one of my favorite pastimes.”
Cyril looked down at Shawn’s phone as it buzzed again, proclaiming: answer me on the text screen. Cyril rolled down the window and tossed it out. Shawn cried out and turned to look behind them, but his phone was lost along the dark road.
“That was a new phone,” he said sadly. “I wasn’t kidding about the Verizon people, you know, they’re scary. You’d better watch your back.”
“I’ve got bigger problems, don’t you think?” Cyril asked. “And so do you.”
“Oh, please,” Shawn said. “You really are the worst kidnapper ever. I could have escaped like fifty times if I’d wanted to.”
Cyril glanced at him sideways. “Then why didn’t you?”
“Because I believe you,” Shawn said. “And you haven’t got anybody else who does.”
“Why?” Cyril asked. “Why do you believe me?”
“Because you’re telling the truth,” Shawn said simply. “Psychic, remember? I just know.”
“I don’t believe in psychics,” Cyril said. “But I’ve kept up on Lassiter’s career, which means I’ve seen quite a bit of yours, too, and it’s kind of hard to argue with your success.”
“What is this thing between you and Lassiter?” Shawn asked. “You’re like Kimble and Gerard.”
“He’s the guy that put me away,” Cyril said. “It’s not something that you forget. He never believed me. I tried to explain it, I went through the lie detector test, nothing worked. He thought I was scum.”
“You broke the law,” Shawn said. “Lassiter takes that very seriously. He’d put me in jail if he could.”
“What for?” Cyril asked, surprised.
“He doesn’t believe I’m psychic, either,” Shawn said.
“If he’s not going to believe you either, then I don’t know how we’re going to prove to him that he’s wrong,” Cyril said.
“That’s nothing, I do that once a week at least,” he said. “All you have to do is show the evidence to him in a way that makes sense. He doesn’t do leaps of faith. So let’s start with something solid. Tell me about James Clavor.”
”I don’t know much,” Cyril said haltingly. “I barely knew him, and it was two years ago.”
”Two years in which you’ve had nothing to do but think about him,” Shawn said. “So tell me everything.”
“We met through a mutual friend, Fred Greenly,” he said. “He said that Clavor had a job for me, low risk, high pay off. I was a construction worker, you know, but it was only part time. I could never seem to make enough to get by.”
“Where did you meet?” Shawn asked.
“The Hottie Tottie Tavern,” he said.
“The Hottie Tottie Tavern?” Shawn echoed. “Did you just make that up?”
“It’s a strip bar at the edge of Summerland,” Cyril explained. “Looked like he spent a lot of time there, everyone knew him. Fred made the introductions. James was one of those tough no small talk guys, had this huge cobra on his right arm. He didn’t say much, just laid out the plan. It was a really good plan, I really didn’t think anything could go wrong. It seemed odd though.”
“What did?” Shawn asked.
“He didn’t seem exactly capable of making that plan on his own, you know? Rumor had it he’d just fallen out of favor with his former crew, a group of successful, smalltime jewel thieves. He’d just been their muscle. He wasn’t a planner,” he said.
“No, obviously,” Shawn said. “Anyone that was thinking would have known better than to shoot that guard in a panic.”
“Exactly,” Cyril said. “But if he was working with anyone else I never met them.”
“What about Fred?” Shawn asked.
Cyril shook his head. “Fred didn’t have anything to do with it. He even used to visit me in prison, said he blamed himself for making the introduction.”
“Yeah, I’m going to need to talk to him,” Shawn said.
“That’s going to be a little hard,” Cyril said, “he died about a year ago of a heart attack.”
“That’s never stopped me before,” Shawn said. “I’m on very good terms with the spirit world.”
Cyril shot him a disbelieving look. “Uh huh.”
“It does, however, complicate matters,” Shawn admitted. “So keep going. What happened then?”
“Nothing much,” he said. “Clavor told me I had the job, said to meet me across the street from old Dah-Ling’s. We got number thirty-six open but Clavor wouldn’t let me go in it. He’d paid me a couple thousand up front, so I didn’t argue with him. And the rest you already know.”
“What did they call him?” Shawn asked.
Cyril frowned. “What?”
“You said the people at the Hottie Tottie seemed to know him, so what did they call him? James? Jimmy? Hey, you?” Shawn asked.
Cyril shook his head. “Maybe Jimmy? One of the girls thought his name was Daniel, another thought it was Dave. Clavor said he never gave any of them his real name.”
“And you thought he had given it to you?” Shawn asked.
“Not really,” Cyril said. “But it was the only one I had.”
“Fair point,” Shawn said, and turned to glance out the window as they stopped at a light. Shawn squinted into a little Mom and Pop Electronics store. There were about a dozen televisions set up in front of the window of varying size, and Shawn was staring back at himself from every single one of them.
Shawn recognized the photo. He was smiling and holding a pineapple that had been wrapped in a large pink bow for Juliet’s birthday. She’d taken the photo in front of the police station, and if you looked hard enough, you could just make out Gus’s elbow on the very edge of the left side.
The picture flashed off the screen, and switched to Vick holding court with the media, giving a press conference in a freshly pressed suit. Shawn knew this created about a million and one problems for him and Cyril both, but all he could think was that his father was going to see this.
“I think we’ve got a problem,” he said.
Gus leaned forward, watching as the first person took the stage. He was bringing the first spoonful of Rice Krispie goodness up to his mouth when the stage disappeared in a wash of red and white, “Breaking News!” scrolling urgently across the screen. Gus dropped the spoon back into the bowl in irritation. Now he was never going to know if that guy in the orange cowboy boots could sing.
He was just reaching for the remote when a photo of Shawn appeared in the corner of the screen. Gus dropped the bowl of Rice Krispies and jumped to his feet.
Mary Merryweather clasped her hands on the news desk and stared out at the world solemnly. “SBPD consultant Shawn Spencer was apparently abducted by the fugitive Cyril Riner earlier this evening at the Dah-Ling Store-It-Yourself, who some of you may remember was the scene of the original crime.”
“It’s just awful, isn’t it, Mary?” co-anchor Mark Bender asked, shaking his head sadly for a moment before giving everyone a bright grin. “More details as they come in.”
“Oh my god!” Gus shouted. He grabbed his phone and dialed Shawn’s number in a moment of frantic confusion. “The person you are calling is not available to take your call right now,” a cheery female voice informed him. “The voicemail box is currently full. Please try again later. Goodbye!”
There was a click as his call was ended, and Gus tried to remember when he had last seen Shawn. He’d been claiming he was going to talk to Buzz, safe and sound in the police department. What could have happened in the three hours since he left him there? Gus shook his head in resignation and made a beeline to his car.
Who was he kidding? Three hours was more than enough time for Shawn to get himself kidnapped. Two weeks ago he’d managed it in less than ten minutes, and that time he’d been right out front.
Gus didn’t bother to follow the posted speed limits as he drove to the police station. He didn’t care if he got a ticket. Shawn had gotten enough of them in this car that he didn’t have a spotless record anymore anyway, and this was life and death.
He ran into the police station, and came to a stop just inside the doors, placing his hands on his knees to catch his breath before looking up urgently for help. “Have you seen the news?” he shouted. “Shawn’s been kidnapped!”
Everyone stopped what they were doing to turn and look at him. Henry was standing off to the side with his arms crossed, facing off with Vick. Lassiter was on the other side of the room beside Juliet, frantically writing something on the chalkboard that had been dragged into the center of the bullpen.
Juliet ran over and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “We know, Gus,” she said reassuringly. “We’re the ones that told them.”
Gus was overcome with an unreasonable rage, though he recognized most of it as misrepresented fear. “Then why didn’t anyone call me?” he demanded.
Henry cleared his throat. “I tried,” he said. “You weren’t answering your phone.”
Gus’s rage disappeared as quickly as it had come, and he was suddenly taken over by a debilitating sense of guilt in its place. He’d turned his phone on silent. He’d done it because Shawn always called to bother him just when America’s Got Talent was coming on and Gus hadn’t wanted to deal with him tonight. “We’ve got to find him!” Gus said.
“Gus, we’re doing everything we can,” Juliet said. “We’re going to find him.”
“You don’t know that,” Gus said, pulling away. “He could be dead somewhere! I never should have left him here alone. He hasn’t been himself lately. I should have stayed with him.”
“He’s not dead,” Lassiter said quietly, and nodded towards the chalkboard.
Gus approached it carefully. It was a timetable. Shawn went missing at 8:05 PM. He managed to get a call through to Lassiter at 8:57 PM. He’d sent him a few text-messages at 9:22 PM before cutting the conversation off abruptly. Gus scanned the messages that Lassiter had faithfully transcribed. LMAO. That’s what Shawn had sent them. Shawn was with some murderer and he was laughing his ass off.
Gus glanced at the clock. It was almost 10:00 PM. That was more than enough time for Shawn to have gotten himself killed. He felt sick again. Gus didn’t exactly enjoy being in mortal danger, but as long as Shawn was there, he could handle it. He couldn’t handle this not knowing, and he couldn’t stand the thought of Shawn out there alone without Gus to keep him in check. Shawn was not going to do as he was told, and this time he was going to get himself killed the same way he’d gotten himself a concussion from Drimmer.
Lassiter was standing beside him, fidgeting with the information on the board, moving a few things around, putting them back. “We have an APB out on Spencer and Riner,” he said. “We’re going to get about 30 phone tips an hour. Once we sort through them to the ones that might be the truth, we’ll find him.”
“How did this even happen?” Gus asked.
Lassiter kept his eyes on the chalkboard. “It’s my fault,” he said. “Spencer was following me.”
Gus thought it would be easy to blame Lassiter, but he knew Shawn too well to do it. “If he was following you, then it’s not your fault,” he said.
“It’s Shawn’s,” Henry said roughly, coming up behind them to glance dismissively at the board. “He had no business going out there in the first place.”
“He was trying to help me,” Lassiter said softly. He didn’t know where this sudden urge to defend Spencer had come from, and he valiantly fought it back down. “Not that it would excuse it.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Henry said. “And it doesn’t entirely clear you of guilt, either. You’ve all let Shawn get away with this little agency business of his for too long. I think it’s time you put a stop to it, don’t you? When we get Shawn back, I want him off your cases.”
Lassiter didn’t bother to mention he’d been trying to make that happen all along. Vick stepped in to try and appease him. “Henry,” she started.
“Don’t give me another speech about how damn valuable the kid is,” he snapped. “He’s not going to do you any good if he’s dead. This is the last one, the last time, you’re going to get him killed, Karen.”
“Let’s worry about that later,” she said calmly. “We’re all very upset right now. We don’t want to say anything that we can’t take back.”
Henry watched her speculatively. He knew what she was referring to. Henry could end Shawn’s career as a psychic private eye with just a few words. All he had to do was tell them that Shawn’s been lying to them for years. The way Karen was looking at him, though, he was pretty sure she knew it too.
Karen had always been a little ruthless. Henry had liked that about her right away. She didn’t care how the job got done so long as it got done. He was counting on the fact that hadn’t changed. “Fine,” he said. “First, you find him. We’ll talk about the rest after you do.”
He glanced back at the chalkboard, reading over Shawn’s messages quickly. “Is he talking in code?” he asked. “H n K? LMAO? What do these mean?”
Everyone looked at the ground. No one wanted to tell Henry Spencer what they meant. Gus decided it was up to him. “It’s just text-speak,” he explained. “They just mean goodbye. It doesn’t help us find him.”
“Goodbye?” Henry repeated, and snorted. “I just don’t get that text-ing thing. What about the phone call? What did he tell you?”
"Spencer told me that Riner was innocent," Lassiter said. "He wants us to look at the other suspects. He said Riner wasn’t going to let him tell me anything else."
"We know who has Shawn, that's who you need to be looking for," Henry snapped.
“You think I don’t know that?” Lassiter asked tersely.
Karen moved back between them. “I think we can all acknowledge that his messages aren’t going to help us. Does anyone want to venture a guess as to why that is?”
“What do you mean?” Juliet asked.
“Mr. Spencer is a very clever young man,” Karen said. “If he wanted to give us a hint about where to find him, he would have found a way to do it.”
“You don’t think he’s trying to,” Gus said.
“No, I don’t,” Karen said.
“God damn it,” Henry snapped, as he realized what she meant. “It’s because he’s working the damn case. He’s curious, and if he gets away, he won’t get to question the star suspect anymore.”
“So how are we going to find him if he doesn’t want to be found?” Juliet asked.
Henry pursed his lips. “That’s easy,” he said. “You’re not going to.”
“This is awful, is what this is!” Cyril snapped. “I’ve already got everyone looking for me, and now they’re going to be looking for you, too.”
He pulled off the road into an empty lot, and then tore out of the truck, slamming the door behind him. Shawn followed him out, glancing around. “Just calm down. We can still do this.”
Cyril shook his head. “No, this is way above my head, okay? I’m not a hostage taking kind of guy.” He sighed heavily and then met Shawn’s eyes. “I think I’m going to have to let you go.”
Shawn was crushed. “You’re firing me?”
“As a hostage you’ve become a liability,” Cyril said. “Your face is all over the news. You’re going to be recognized.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, so are you! Though admittedly, mug shot is not your best look,” Shawn said. “You need me. I’ll be a better hostage, okay? I’ll stop text-messaging the cops and everything.”
“It’s not that, you’ve been great, really,” he protested. “I couldn’t have asked for a better captive.”
“I think that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me,” Shawn said, and grinned brightly. “That’s settled then.”
”What’s settled?” Cyril asked with a frown.
“We’ll go to the Hottie Tottie Tavern together,” Shawn explained.
“Why would we go there?” Cyril asked.
“Because that’s where we’re going to find James Clavor,” he said. “That’s the thing about career criminals, it’s exactly that, a career. They go out for the day, commit crime, and then return back home to all the same places. It’s why they keep getting arrested, everyone knows where to find them.”
“If that were true, then they would have been able to find him before this,” Cyril said.
“But they weren’t looking in the right place,” Shawn said. “How would you describe James Clavor? Tall, right? Close shaved hair. Big, though it’s mostly muscle, and most of it covered with tattoos—the snake you remember, the rest you forgot. Am I close?”
Cyril was excited. “Yes, that’s him, you know him?”
“Have you seen the inside of a police station recently?” Shawn asked. “I just described half the suspects there. Your buddy Clavor’s a generic grunt, and that’s served him well. Put him in a lineup and the victim will be hard pressed to tell him apart from the guy standing next to him. That’s why we need to get a name.”
“It’s been two years, you really think he’s going to be going to the same old places?” Cyril asked. “I’m not sure what he got away with when we robbed that place, for all I know he could be rich.”
“All that would mean is that he’s sticking twenties in the g-strings of his favorite ladies instead of lucky old George,” Shawn said. “Trust me. The guy’s a lifetime loser. He’ll be there.”
“I still think it would be best for you to go back,” Cyril said. “This manhunt for me is getting out of hand.”
“Lassie’s not going to stop hunting you just because you let me go, he’s not going to stop until he finds you,” Shawn said. “Which means we’ve got to prove you innocent before he does.”
“Okay, okay,” Cyril said. “You really want to go to the Hottie Tottie Taven?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Shawn said brightly.
There were as many Harleys out front as there were cars, and a few Hell’s Angel wannabes were smoking around their bikes. Shawn tried not to make eye contact with them as they went inside.
The clientele ran the gamut from the wannabes outside to the balding, middle-age suburban dads, who had followed that Venus star and found out where girls are from. None of them looked like very appealing conversationalists to Shawn. “How about you talk to those guys?” he asked.
“Yeah, okay,” Cyril said. “I’ll start with them. But what about you?”
“I’m going to talk with the dancers,” Shawn explained.
“The dancers aren’t supposed to talk much, unless it’s dirty,” Cyril said. “Sheesh, haven’t you ever been to one of these places before?”
“Not really,” Shawn said. “Well, like once, when I turned eighteen.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Cyril demanded. “Are you seriously dating Lassiter?”
“I just don’t find this kind of tableau interesting because it’s one-sided, this is their 9-to-5, it’s just that it’s 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM instead of the other way around,” Shawn said. “Like, see, that girl there—”
He pointed to a girl slipping down a pole. She was wearing a fringe bikini top and a cowboy hat and not much else. “She’s trying to cover the dark circles under her eyes with make-up but it’s not really working. If you look closely enough you can see she’s trying to do the same thing with the varicose veins. She’s got a new baby at home, probably only a few weeks old.”
“Jesus,” Cyril said. “I don’t want to ogle a new mom.”
“You see my dilemma,” Shawn said. “It isn’t easy being prescient.”
“Okay, fine,” Cyril said. “You talk to the dancers, I’ll talk to the gawkers, and then we’ll meet up to see if we learned anything.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Shawn said. He wandered around to the other side of the stage, and one of the dancers spotted him right away. She started to approach, grinning sweetly, and grabbed him by the sides of his hoodie, before superfluously straightening them out.
“Hey, gorgeous,” she said. “You want a lap dance?”
Shawn had no illusions that he was walking around looking like the Hunchback from Notre Dame or something, but he figured that considering the usual clientele at this place, right now he was registering as movie-star good looking by comparison.
“I don’t really do lap dances in public,” Shawn explained, trying to disentangle himself. “I’m shy.”
“Really?” she asked, sliding a hand towards the waistband of his pants. “I find that hard to believe.”
Shawn caught her hand before it could reach its destination and glanced at her costume. It was a gold, Leia-inspired bikini, with little tassels hanging off the top. “I love the little tassels,” he said, gesturing to her chest area. “Are they the kind that spin?”
“No, they’re just regular old tassels, the kind that spin are special order,” she said, and gave a mock-sigh. “The boss never wants to shell out the dough for the luxuries. Well, you know how men are.”
“Do I ever,” Shawn said.
She smiled at him. “You’re a doll, you know that?”
“I have been told,” he said. “My Aunt Ruth used to dress me up and try to get me to live in the miniature house she kept in her backyard.”
“You’re funny,” she said. “What are you doing in a place like this?”
“I’m here to audition, actually,” Shawn said. “But I don’t think any of these uniforms are going to fit me.”
She laughed. “Yeah,” she said. “Your height could be a problem. Also, certain other things.”
Shawn grinned at her. If people ever bothered to speak with them, they would find that exotic dancers almost always made for fun, interesting people. “Shawn Spencer,” he said, holding out his hand.
“They call me Houston here, but you can call me Amelia, if you want. We’re not actually supposed to give out real names, but you seem pretty harmless,” she said, grinning.
“Nice to meet you, Amelia,” Shawn said. “That’s pretty common, huh? Using false names?”
“In a place like this?” she asked. “Honey, what do you think? You think all those strippers were really christened Bambi?”
“You’re messing with my world view, here,” Shawn said. “I’m starting to think this is why I could never find that nice girl I met at Nudes, Nudes, Nudes in the phone book.”
Amelia laughed, but stopped herself and bit her lip when she noticed her boss watching from behind the bar, obviously wondering why she was standing there laughing instead of shaking her groove thing. She pushed Shawn back into a chair and then got up on his lap. “Don’t worry,” she said. “This is a freebie.”
“That’s good, because all I’ve got is a $2.00 bill and some M&Ms,” Shawn said. “I’m actually just here looking for someone. He’s got a habit of giving out a lot of false names, too. You might know him as Jimmy, Daniel, or Dave? He’d have a cobra tattoo, probably a bad attitude.”
Amelia froze in her undulating to think about it. “There’s this guy, Dave, he’s got a cobra tattoo and he’s definitely got a bad attitude. He’s a regular. In fact, I think I saw him lurking around just a few minutes ago.”
“Do you think you could point him out?” Shawn asked.
Amelia glanced around but shook her head. “I don’t see him now. He must have left. He’s always hitting on us, you know. Talking about his big score. Saying someday he’s going to buy an island and whisk us away.”
“I hope you told him that kidnapping was a felony,” Shawn said, before carefully extracting himself from her. He reached into his pockets and placed the $2.00 bill in her hands. “He’s still watching,” Shawn explained, when she tried to give it back. “Keep it. They’re rare, you know.”
She grinned and stuck it down her top. “Thanks,” she said.
Cyril came up to them. “Well?” he asked.
“Cyril!” Shawn said brightly. “Cyril, this is Amelia. Amelia, this is Cyril.”
“Nice to meet you,” Amelia said. “I’ve got to head out. I’m next up on stage.”
“Break a leg,” Shawn called after her.
“Well?” Cyril asked again. “Did you learn anything?”
“I learned all kinds of things,” Shawn said. “For instance, did you know that strippers don’t use their real names?”
Cyril sighed. “About Clavor,” he said.
“Oh, right,” Shawn said. “Amelia says she knows a Dave with a tattoo. She thinks she saw him earlier. How about you?”
“I didn’t see him,” Cyril said, before giving Shawn a push towards the doors. “I want you to wait outside for a minute, okay?”
Shawn came to a stop just outside, causing Cyril to slam into him. He stared at a man standing a few feet away. He kept getting caught in the flare of pink light from the neon ‘Hottie’ sign right above his head, and he was lighting up a cigarette. Shawn noticed there was a winding cobra crawling up his right arm. “What about that guy?” Shawn asked, and pointed over at him.
Cyril gasped in disbelief. “Clavor!” he shouted, taking off running.
Clavor’s eyes widened as he caught sight of Cyril, and he pulled out a gun, throwing off a wild shot before taking off for his car. Cyril dropped down to the ground to avoid the bullet and Shawn threw himself against the side of the Hottie Tottie Tavern. They heard the sound of an engine powering up before either of them could get back on their feet.
Cyril ran for his truck, and Shawn took off following him, jumping into the passenger seat just as Cyril was driving off. “What are you doing?” Cyril demanded. “Don’t you have any sense at all? You don’t follow your kidnapper willingly into a car chase.”
“My last car chase was disappointing, we hardly broke twenty miles per hour,” Shawn said. “I thrive on new experience.”
Cyril pulled the truck onto the road after Clavor’s convertible in a wide swerve. “Nice car for a deadbeat,” Shawn said, and then ducked when Clavor turned to look back at them and fire off another shot.
When Shawn sat back up, there was a wide bullet hole in the windshield in the general vicinity of his head. He swallowed heavily.
Cyril slowed down and glanced at him. “Get out,” he said.
“What?” Shawn asked, confused.
Clavor fired shot off another shot and Cyril swerved again, but Shawn heard the bullet take out a headlight. “Get out of the car, Shawn, or you’re going to get killed. This isn’t your fight.”
“We’re going like eighty miles per hour,” Shawn protested. “I’m pretty sure jumping out of the car is only going to kill me faster.”
Cyril slammed on the brakes, slowing to a little under twenty miles per hour. “Now, Shawn, or I’m going to stop this car to throw you out and probably lose Clavor’s trail in the process.”
“But I can’t leave now,” Shawn protested, and then glanced at the glove box with a frown.
“You can, and you’re going to,” Cyril said.
Shawn glanced out the widow at the road. “You have to promise me something, you have to promise you’re going to look in your glove box.”
“What? What the hell are you talking about? Just jump!” Cyril slowed them almost to a stop. He leaned across to open the door, and before Shawn knew it he was tumbling along the highway like a weed.
“But you’ve got all my Red Bull!” Shawn shouted after him.
He had asphalt burns on the palms of his hands and the left knee of his jeans had ripped wide open, but he was mostly unharmed. No bullet holes. He checked.
Shawn slowly pulled himself to his feet, watching as the cars continued to speed along the road, disappearing as they outdistanced the neon lights. Shawn kicked at a rock in frustration.
With both Cyril and Clavor gone he had no choice but to go back home, and the thought of facing his father scared him a hell of a lot more than high-speed car chases or shoot-outs.
He was trying to hold the image of James Clavor in his mind. He was pretty much the way Shawn had described, and that meant he was easy to forget. He was listing his features as he walked, mumbling them aloud to himself. In addition to the cobra there was a thorny rose and a Queen of Hearts, barbed wire drawn around both wrists. Tattoos were a little like barcodes, it made people easy to identify. They were the only remarkable thing about Clavor other than his above-average size.
Shawn could see the flashing neon signs as the Hottie Tottie Tavern came back into sight. A naked neon woman was bending over in the window, offering a drink, and while ‘Hottie’ flashed pink, ‘Tottie’ went blue, and Shawn blinked his eyes in the garish glare of it before reaching the payphone that had been set up beside the back exit.
He leaned his head against the grimy metal side and grabbed the phone, before scrambling around in his pockets looking for a quarter. All he had left were the M&Ms, so he’d have to call collect.
Now it was just a matter of who he should call.
He was so distracted, that he didn’t even glance at the caller-Id when his cellphone rang. “Will you accept a collect call from ‘I-got-away-come-get-me’?” a woman’s voice asked cheerfully, Shawn’s tired voice coming through in the part where he was supposed to say his name.
“Yes,” Lassiter said urgently. “Spencer, where the hell are you?”
Henry and Gus both appeared almost instantly at his side. Henry was twitching to take the phone out of Lassiter’s hands, and Guster was just twitching.
"I’m lost in Summerland," Shawn told him tiredly. "I just got pushed out of a moving vehicle and I was being shot at.”
Lassiter held his hand over the mouthpiece. “Somebody trace this call!” he shouted, before putting the phone back to his ear. “Are you alright?”
"Maybe you missed the part about being shot at, and shoved out of a moving car?" Shawn asked him, before laughing. "Yeah, fine. I'm fine, but he drove off with all my Red Bull."
“Spencer, I need you to tell me exactly where you are,” Lassiter said.
“The Hottie Tottie Tavern,” Shawn said.
Lassiter paused. “Come again?”
“It’s a real place,” Shawn said defensively. “Coincidentally, so is James Clavor. I mean, he’s a real person, not a real place, but you probably figured that out. He’s the one that was shooting at us.”
"We'll be there soon," Lassiter said, glancing at Henry. "Your father wants to talk with you. I want you to stay on the line, okay?"
“You told my father?” Shawn demanded. “That was the one thing I asked you not to do.”
Lassiter didn’t bother respond, just handed the phone off to Henry and started shouting orders. “Do we have a location yet?” he demanded. “I want to send an ambulance just in case, he sounds out of it.”
“Shawn!” Henry shouted. “What happened? How badly are you hurt?”
"I'm fine, I told Lassiter," Shawn said. "But it's not as cool as it looks in the movies, you know. Jumping out of cars."
"You jumped?" Henry demanded.
"Jumped, pushed, it was kind of hard to tell the difference," Shawn said. “I think I’m gonna go lay down now.”
“Shawn, wait, I want you to stay on the phone—“
Henry cursed as the call was ended, and then rushed to follow Lassiter, with Gus close behind him. “Did you find him?” Henry demanded.
Lassiter nodded as he started down the steps towards the parking lot. “Yeah, it’s a strip bar just between Santa Barbara and Summerland. We’re closer so they’re giving jurisdiction to us.”
Juliet came speeding up to the curb in a police car, the lights and sirens already blaring. “Get in!” she shouted.
Lassiter climbed in beside her, and Gus and Henry got in the back. Juliet hit the gas and took off at a starting point of about sixty miles per hour. Lassiter itched to be in the driver’s seat himself, but they didn’t have that much time to waste. The cars ahead of them kept pulling out of the way, but Juliet didn’t slow to wait for them. Her eyes were straight ahead, and she determinedly barreled on, as though she intended to go through them if she had to. Lassiter decided after a moment that actually he couldn’t have done it better himself.
The ambulance came around the corner to line up behind them, and Lassiter tapped his fingers along the door, keeping track of it in the side view mirror.
“He’s probably fine,” Gus was saying. “Right? What did he say? Didn’t he say he was fine?”
“Yeah, that’s what he said,” Lassiter said.
Lassiter was caught between wanting to grab Shawn and hug him or grab him and shake him once he got his hands on him again, but when they actually make it to the Hottie Tottie Tavern, all he could see was Shawn laid out on the sidewalk, caught in the glare of the headlights, the knees of his jeans stained with almost as much blood as there was on his hands.
Henry made it to Shawn’s side first, with a paramedic jumping out of the ambulance behind them coming in a close second. Lassiter’s heartbeat was stuttering a little as he followed them more slowly, Juliet and Gus easily passing him by.
“Is he okay?” Guster demanded.
The paramedic looked confused. “He’s . . . just asleep,” he said.
“Come again?” Henry snapped.
“But I don’t want any more hot chocolate,” Shawn murmured, sighing deeply and arranging himself more comfortably on the sidewalk.
“Shawn?” Henry snapped, reaching out to lightly slap Shawn’s cheek. Shawn winced, but only turned away instead of waking up.
“Sir, please,” the paramedic, whose nametag read Darius, said. “Give me some space to work.” Darius rolled up one of Shawn’s sleeves and gave him a once over. “He’s got some cuts and abrasions,” he said, as he reached out to take Shawn’s pulse. “Possibly a minor tachycardia. Any idea what’s wrong with him?”
“You want a list?” Henry asked.
“He hasn’t been sleeping,” Gus stepped in. “And he’s been living off Red Bull for the last three days.”
Darius nodded. “That would do it,” he said. “I want to take him to the hospital for an IV and observation for the night, but I think it’s safe to say he’ll be fine.”
The other paramedic came over to join them, laying a gurney out beside Shawn. Henry got to his feet and stepped back, running a hand down his face before sticking his hands in his pockets and watching as his son was shuffled off into the back of the ambulance.
Lassiter came to stand beside him, and he felt very odd, strangely like a weight had been lifted.
Almost as if he’d been terrified all this time and only now was realizing it, almost as if he actually cared about annoying, meddling, insane Shawn Spencer.
“Is someone going to ride with him?” Darius asked, leaning out the back of the ambulance. Inside Shawn was talking on his sleep, protesting that the marshmallows were far too big.
Lassiter bit down on his lip. Even if he didn’t have work to do here, even if Henry weren’t the obvious choice, it wasn’t like he had any business holding Spencer’s hand.
“I’m his father,” Henry said roughly, pushing himself into the ambulance without further ado.
Gus was right behind him, but Darius barred his way. “Only one can go with him, sir,” he said.
Henry reached out to stop the progress of the closing door. “He’s family,” he said. “This is my other son. I think we can make an exception, don’t you?”
“Uh—“ Darius trailed off, unsure what to say. “Your son?”
Gus met the paramedic’s eyes smugly. “You got something to say?” he asked, and then crawled into the ambulance. “You know that’s right.”
Juliet let out a breath as the door shut behind Gus. “Thank goodness,” she said. “I really thought—“
She didn’t finish her thought, but Lassiter knew what she’d been thinking. He’d been thinking the same thing.
“Is that Shawn!?”
The ambulance was just starting down the road when Lassiter heard the shout, and he turned around to see a barefoot, half-dressed woman charging straight at him. He tried to stop her as she ran by, but she was all covered in oil and slipped right out of his hands.
She stopped in the middle of the road, tripping and catching herself with the palm of one hand on the ground, before regaining her balance and turning back around. “Is he alright?” she demanded.
“I’m sorry,” Juliet said politely, stepping forward. “Who are you?”
“I’m Houston,” she said, glancing back at the retreating ambulance. “That was Shawn, wasn’t it? Is he okay?”
“How do you know Spencer?” Lassiter asked her. “And what’s your real name?”
“Amelia Emerson,” she said reluctantly. “Shawn was in the Tavern, earlier tonight. He’s not in any trouble, is he?”
“Shawn was taken hostage by the fugitive Cyril Riner,” Juliet explained. “We’ve been looking for him. The paramedics said they think he’s going to be fine.”
Lassiter gave her a censuring glance for giving so much away, but it had the right effect on Amelia, who nodded and calmed down almost at once. “Cyril?” she repeated. “He didn’t look like much of a hostage taker to me.”
“You saw him?” Lassiter demanded. “Is he still here?”
“No, he left with Shawn,” Amelia said. “But Shawn didn’t—” she stopped herself from saying anything more, suddenly worried that it might not look too good for Shawn to say he’d been going with Cyril willingly. “He was fine when he left. Then we heard a gunshot, and when we came out they were both gone.”
“Do you know what they were doing here?” Juliet asked.
Amelia nodded. “Yes,” she said. “They were looking for Dave.”
“Dave,” Lassiter repeated wryly. “And does this Dave have a last name?”
“I don’t even think Dave is his first name,” Amelia said.
“That’s helpful,” Lassiter said, and Juliet discreetly hit him with her elbow. Lassiter winced and held his side, because her elbows were surprisingly pointy.
“Was this the first time you had met Cyril Riner?” Juliet asked.
Amelia nodded. “Yes,” she said. “Shawn too. But Dave comes here all the time.”
“Do you think you could describe him for a sketch artist?” Lassiter asked.
Amelia pulled her arms around herself and fought back a shiver, before glancing back at the road. “If it’ll help Shawn,” she said after a moment. “Can I go back inside?”
Juliet nodded. “We’ll send someone down, will you still be here in a few hours?”
“My shift doesn’t end until 4:00,” Amelia told them, and then went back inside.
Lassiter shook his head disbelievingly. “Spencer makes the oddest allies,” he said.
“And the strangest enemies,” Juliet said softly, and Lassiter couldn’t figure out why she was looking at him.
“Leave it alone,” Henry said quietly.
Shawn took a deep breath to orient himself and then noticed that Gus had fallen asleep splayed across the end of the bed, snoring rather loudly and clutching at the sheets with both hands. There wasn’t a clock in the room, but when he glanced out the window it was already bright. It had to be eight or nine in the morning at least.
Henry slowly released the grip he had on Shawn’s wrist, before leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms, staring him down. Things were coming back to Shawn kind of blearily, and he slowly remembered getting into the truck with Cyril, being thrown out of the truck by Cyril, and being locked in a room and forced to drink nothing but mug after mug of steaming hot chocolate.
But that last part was probably just a dream.
“I hope you’re proud of yourself,” Henry said.
Shawn placed a hand to his head. He could feel a migraine coming on, piercing through both temples as though he’d been bolted like a modern-day Frankenstein monster. It didn’t help that the whole world seemed soft focus, and he felt as though he’d taken too much cold medicine, like in that commercial where the woman’s head floats away like a balloon. “Do we have to do this now?”
“I’m sorry, is now a bad time?” Henry asked. “Maybe I should wait and give this lecture at your funeral, would that be better for you?”
“Actually, that would be awesome,” Shawn said. “I think you’re onto something with this. If you save your lectures until I’m dead, you still get to entertain your favorite pastime, but I don’t have to listen to them.”
“Unfortunately, that would defeat the purpose of them,” he snapped. “Since what I’m trying to do is keep you alive.”
“I’m fine,” Shawn protested weakly.
Henry snorted. “Yeah, right. This is just like that thing with Drimmer. You never think, Shawn. You never stop and think.”
“You’re never going to let that go, are you?” Shawn demanded.
“It was two weeks ago, Shawn,” Henry yelled.
Gus bolted up from the bed, startled awake, and his eyes were wide and kind of frazzled. “What? What happened?” he shouted.
“Everything’s fine,” Shawn reassured Gus.
“No, it’s not,” Henry snapped, getting to his feet to glare down at his son. “Gus? Why don’t you go get yourself a coffee.”
Gus looked between Shawn and Henry for a moment, before reaching out to grab Shawn’s arm and give it a slight squeeze. “I’m glad you’re alright,” he said. “I’d lecture you but I think Henry’s going to do it well enough for the both of us, so I’ll just be in the café if you need me.”
“Gus, I’ll give you a million dollars if you don’t leave me here alone with him,” Shawn said.
“Someday you’re going to have to learn it’s pointless to try and bribe people with Monopoly money,” Gus told him, and then went out the door.
Shawn felt stripped down and vulnerable sitting in the hospital bed in the stupid flimsy green hospital gown, with his father looming over him. Shawn hated being vulnerable, and he always fought dirty when he was cornered. “Can we do this later?” he asked. “I don’t feel well.”
“No, Shawn, we can’t, because if we don’t do this now, you might not have a later,” Henry said. “You could have been killed, do you even get that? Is it even registering with you?”
“I was never in any danger!” Shawn protested. “Cyril wasn’t ever going to hurt me.”
“He threw you out of a moving car!” Henry shouted.
Shawn glared at him, and crossed his arms. “You’re taking that completely out of context!”
Henry turned away. “Let’s get to the point,” he said. “I want you to get rid of your little business. You’re done, Shawn. It’s gone on long enough.”
Shawn was incredulous. “Excuse me?” he asked. “I’m not going to do anything of the sort.”
“Yes, you will,” Henry said, “because if you don’t, I’m going to tell them the truth.”
“You’re not going to do that,” Shawn said.
Henry leaned against the wall, looking back to glare at Shawn. “Oh, I’m not?”
“No, you’re not, because you’d be guilty of perjury too, and anyway, it would be your word against mine,” he said. “It isn’t my fault my own father doesn’t believe I’m gifted. You can’t actually prove I’m not psychic.”
“I could make a pretty damn good case for it,” Henry countered. “I just need to tell them how you do it, I just need to tell them everything I taught you.”
Shawn felt a little sick. He knew that if his father really put his mind to it, he could do just that, and pull Shawn’s life right out from under him in the process. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d done it. “Why are you doing this? I thought this was what you wanted. Wasn’t it? Isn’t this what you trained me for?”
“No, Shawn, it isn’t! You could have done anything with what I taught you," Henry snapped.
"What does that even mean?" Shawn demanded. "I didn't want to do anything, I wanted to do everything. You've been from Santa Barbara to Miami and back again, but I made all the stops along the way. I've lived my life!"
Henry pushed himself away from the wall in agitation. "And what do you have to show for it?"
"Show who?" Shawn demanded, choking off the end with a bitter laugh. "Is there a tally? Some cosmic scoreboard? Mr. Lieson's kid has one up on me cause he’s got a pension plan and works nine to five?"
"Maybe he does," Henry snapped.
"If that's how you really feel, then I'm sorry for you," Shawn said. "Because I don't live my life worrying about what other people think."
"That's obvious, kid," Henry snapped. "Because if you cared at all what I thought--"
"What?" Shawn asked. "What, dad? I would have been a cop? I'd be miserable just like you?"
"I did what I had to," Henry said.
"Yeah, you did," Shawn said. "And what is it that you have to show for it that's so great? A wife that left you? A son that resents you? Or is that badge the only thing that ever meant anything to you?"
For a moment Shawn thought Henry was going to hit him, and half believed he’d deserve it, but what Henry actually did was worse. He just gave a little laugh and shook his head, before walking out the door without another word.
Shawn felt short of breath, and he reached out to grab the rail along the right side of the bed, gasping in order to take in air. It had been a long time since he had let his father get to him this way, and it had been years since one of their fights had this kind of edge to it, like maybe it was going to be the last one they ever bothered to have.
The last time they’d had a fight like this, Shawn had been gone for five years.
He closed his eyes, and breathed deeply until he wasn’t feeling light-headed. Then he ripped out his IV now that there wasn’t anyone to stop him from doing it, and stumbled to his feet. He was never overly fond of hospitals to begin with, at least not when he was the patient, and combined with his father’s accusations, he was feeling suddenly claustrophobic.
He found his clothes on one of the shelves in the closet. He pulled his ripped, blood stained jeans on and then threw his shirt over his head at the same time he forced his feet into his shoes. He was aching a little bit everywhere, but his hands hurt the most. They had been wrapped in gauze and had stopped bleeding, but the skin had been worn raw from where he’d tried to break his fall.
But his anger was like morphine—it drove him on. He started for the door, turning back only to glance at the sign on the wall to see what floor he was on. He was glad it was only the first, and followed an exit sign arrow to the left.
He was still pulling on his hoodie when Gus came around a corner, holding a cup of coffee. His eyes went wide, but Shawn didn’t stop to wait for him. “We’re leaving,” Shawn told him.
“What happened?” Gus asked, setting the coffee on a medical tray before jogging after him. “Where’s your father?”
“He left,” Shawn said, looking both ways to see which way would take him out. One way went to the maternity ward, so the other way it was. “Is your car here?”
“Yeah, they wouldn’t let me stay the night, so I took a Taxi home and came back this morning,” Gus said. “Not that I got any sleep.”
“That’s kind of ironic, huh?” Shawn asked. “I finally get some sleep and then you can’t.”
“Yeah, it’s hilarious. Would you slow down for a moment?” Gus demanded. “You haven’t even been released.”
“That’s kind of just a technicality, isn’t it?” Shawn asked. “I’m fine. I slept and everything.”
“You were practically comatose,” Gus protested. “You had a minor tachycardia!”
Shawn paused for a moment, and frowned. “Really? Is that the medical name for getting pushed out of a car?”
“It means you had a rapid heartbeat,” Gus explained.
“Oh, well, so what?” Shawn said, and started heading again for the exit. “That’s probably just because I had two cases of Red Bull in 24 hours.”
“That’s exactly what it was, you idiot!” Gus said, finally reaching out to grab Shawn’s arm and pull him around when he wouldn’t stop. “What happened with your father, Shawn? I haven’t seen you like this since before the last time you left.”
“It wasn’t anything new,” Shawn said. “He’s not happy with the way I’m living my life, so he thinks it’s his job to force a new one on me. Only this time it’s not going to work. This time I’m not giving up, I’m not running away. Not even if that’s what he wants.”
“That’s not what he wants,” Gus said. “He’s probably just scared. I know I am. We thought you were dead, Shawn.”
“I’m not, Cyril isn’t even a killer,” Shawn said. “I was safer with Cyril than I am when I go to the Laundromat.”
“I’ve told you this before, Shawn, your Laundromat is not run by vampires,” he said.
“Then why do they only come out at night?” Shawn asked. He turned back around, walking faster now that he had the exit in sight. “Well, regardless, my point stands. Cyril isn’t dangerous. I know people, you know that, so I thought that at least you would believe me.”
“Even if I did, it doesn’t change the fact that it could have gone very differently,” Gus said. “We didn’t know where you were, what was happening to you, we didn’t know if we were ever going to see you again. Maybe we could have handled it better if we hadn’t gone through the same thing just a couple weeks before.”
“Drimmer doesn’t have anything to do with this, I don’t know why everyone keeps bringing him up,” Shawn said. “Cyril’s case is entirely different, and that’s why I need to get out of here, so I can prove it to everyone else.”
“You have to wait a minute,” Gus said, trying to catch up to him. “We can’t just leave, Shawn, there’s—”
“Sure we can,” Shawn said, pushing out the doors. He stumbled a step back as camera flashes started going off like fireworks, and placed a hand to his already throbbing head. There were about three media vans and five newscasters, each of them surrounded by camera men, video guys, all of them holding out a microphone and speaking all at once.
“Mr. Spencer, how are you after your harrowing ordeal?!”
“Did Mr. Riner hurt you?”
“What were his reasons for holding you hostage?”
“How did you get free?”
“Why were you in the hospital?”
Shawn glanced over at Gus. “I tried to tell you,” Gus said. “They’ve been standing here waiting for you almost all night.”
“Well, let’s not keep them waiting any longer,” Shawn said, before stepping into the center of them all. “If you could hold your questions, please, I’d like to make a statement.”
The news people went silent with anticipation, and Shawn paused for a moment, letting the silence linger just a beat longer than necessary. “I was, briefly, taken hostage by Cyril Riner, but he is not a murderer and I was never in any danger from him. As a psychic, I feel very strongly about this, the spirits are quite certain. Riner is only on the run to prove his innocence, and I intend to help him do so in any way I can.”
The crowd went wild, uproariously demanding explanations, and Gus grabbed Shawn and started running. They managed to make it to Gus’s Echo without being trampled by rabid reporters, if only barely. Gus sped out of the hospital parking lot, looking nervously in the rearview mirror the whole time, like he suspected some crazed news anchor to jump onto the back of the car.
Shawn glanced behind him at the mass of reporters they had left in their wake. “That went pretty well, I think,” he said. “I’m a natural at this. I should have gone into television.”
“What the hell was that?” Gus demanded.
Shawn was about to answer him when Gus’s phone rung. Gus picked it up. “Uh huh,” he said. “He’s right here.” Gus tossed the phone into Shawn’s lap. “It’s for you.”
“Hello?” Shawn said.
“Spencer!” Lassiter yelled. “Did you just tell the media that Riner was innocent?”
“You saw that, huh? How did I look? I hope you couldn’t see the blood stains,” Shawn said. “How embarrassing! If I’d known I was going to be on television I would have worn my Goonies shirt. Knight Rider is so 1983.”
“Spencer!” Lassiter snapped. “You can’t go around telling the media that Riner is innocent because of some ‘psychic’ vision!”
“But I’ve already done that. That’s what we’ve just been talking about,” Shawn said. “I think the problem here is that you’re confused about the definition of can’t. I suggest you look it up. Gus is always singing the praises of the Oxford English Dictionary, but if you aren’t able to get your hands on one then any old Webster will do.”
“It isn’t in the dictionary,” Lassiter snapped. “Can’t is a contraction, not a word.”
“That’s the right attitude!” Shawn said. “Can’t isn’t in my vocabulary either. My first grade teacher always told us to turn can’t into can do. Isn’t that adorable?”
“Focus, Spencer,” Lassiter said. “The people need to know that Riner is dangerous.”
“I’d agree with you if Cyril actually was dangerous, but he’s not,” Shawn said. “Maybe you missed the part in my press conference where I explained this? The spirits have spoken. Cyril Riner is innocent. Problem solved.”
“It wasn’t a press conference, you’re not that important,” Lassiter told him. “And for the record, you looked awful.”
The dial-tone sprung up as the call was ended, and Shawn stared at the phone in disbelief for a moment, before turning to Gus. “He hung up on me!”
Gus tilted his head back haughtily, which Shawn knew always meant a lecture was on the way. He glanced out the window wistfully, but jumping out of two moving vehicles in two days was a little much even for him. “I’d hang up on you too, if I could,” Gus said. “What were you thinking?”
“Cyril is innocent,” Shawn explained. “The people have a right to know.”
“What evidence do you have, Shawn?” Gus demanded.
”I asked Cyril if he was innocent and he said he was,” Shawn told him.
“I’m surprised the police didn’t think of that,” Gus said dryly.
“I know, right?” Shawn said. “It makes you wonder what they’re doing in interrogations these days.”
“Do you want me to get that for you?” Gus asked, his voice was soft and sincere and it was getting on Shawn’s nerves.
Shawn stared resentfully down at his uncooperative keys. “Don’t you have to be at work?”
“Well, let’s see, Shawn, my best friend was kidnapped last night, and I spent the whole morning in the hospital, so, oh, yeah, that’s right, I took the day off,” Gus said.
Shawn shook his head. “Gus, Gus, Gus,” he said. “Why is it you never take the day off for anything fun? You’ve always got to have a reason.” He finally managed to turn the key in the lock, and led the way into his apartment. Gus followed in closely on his heels, and locked the door behind them.
“Can I get you anything?” Gus asked. “Do you want some pineapple?”
Shawn looked down at his bloody jeans and mummified hands and shook his head. “I think I’m going to take a shower.”
Shawn didn’t bother to tell Gus to make himself at home as he went down the hall. They had the kind of relationship that didn’t require the pleasantries, and Gus had already settled onto his couch to watch a Magnum PI marathon. Shawn closed the bathroom door behind him and pulled off his ruined clothes, before unwinding the gauze from his hands. The skin was still irritated and pink, more than a few cuts and scrapes crossing over the lines of his hand, but he didn’t want to keep walking around looking like an extra from The Mummy Returns.
Shawn leaned back against the marble of his shower wall as he turned the water on full blast. He remembered the shower he’d taken after coming home from the hospital this last time after Drimmer, and he’d hurt all over then too.
But that time it had been a lot harder to pinpoint the source.
Shawn reminded himself that this was totally different, and that Cyril was counting on him, before finishing his shower and heading back into his bedroom to get dressed. He threw on a blue polo shirt and a pair of non-blood splattered jeans before searching under the bed to find his favorite pair of Kangaroo tennis shoes.
Shawn came out of his bedroom feeling refreshed and ready to investigate, but he came to a sudden stop when he saw Gus standing over his sink. “Gus? What are you doing!” he demanded.
“I’m pouring out all your Red Bull,” Gus told him, like it should be obvious or something.
Shawn was heartbroken. “Do you have any idea how expensive this stuff is? It’s like liquid gold!”
“Good,” Gus said smugly, and tipped out the last dregs of the final can of Red Bull. “Then you’re not going to be able to afford to buy more. I’m cutting you off.”
“I can’t survive without Red Bull,” Shawn said. “That would be like Popeye without his spinach, or Amy Winehouse without hard liquor!”
“You’ve solved every case we’ve ever had perfectly fine without ingesting lethal amounts of caffeine,” Gus said. “And this isn’t even a case.”
”What do you mean?” Shawn asked. “Of course it is!”
“No one’s hired us to work on it, and in fact, the police have expressly asked us not to,” Gus said. “Ergo, not a case.”
“Okay, first off, ‘ergo’? When did you turn into an aging literature professor? And secondly, we have so been hired, so back away from the Red Bull.”
Gus crossed his arms. “By who, Shawn?”
“By Cyril, if you must know,” he said. “Admittedly instead of coming to the office and being charged for our services, he said if I did it he wouldn’t kill me, but I’ve entered into an agreement nonetheless.”
“I thought you said he wasn’t ever going to hurt you, Shawn!” Gus snapped.
“I said he threatened to kill me, but words will never hurt me,” Shawn explained. “And you might have noticed I’m not actually dead.”
“We’re staying out of this,” Gus said. “I’m putting my foot down.”
“Down where?” Shawn asked. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever quite understood that expression, because you’re perfectly welcome to put your feet wherever you’d like.”
“It means I’m gonna stand firm, I’m not going to waver from my position,” Gus explained.
“Okay,” Shawn said, and turned around. “You stay there then.”
“Shawn!” Gus shouted, following after him.
Shawn glanced back at him as he made his way into the living room. “Gus, you wavered!” he said, giving a fake gasp. “That’s got to be a record. It only took you like 2.5 seconds to cave.”
“I’m serious,” Gus said. “If you want to try and help your buddy Cyril, that’s fine, but no more of this running off into the middle of things and getting taken hostage.”
“Well, I’ll try my best,” Shawn said. “But I can’t make promises on behalf of the hostage-taking portion of the population.”
“I guess that’s fair,” Gus said, after a moment. “But if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it the right way.”
“You mean we’re going to Google the hell out of this thing?” Shawn asked.
“You know that’s right,” Gus said. “Information from the comfort of your own home, and we can even leave Magnum on.”
As Magnum was initiating a car chase on screen, Gus and Shawn settled down onto the couch and opened the laptop on the coffee table. Gus worked out a crick in his neck and then cracked his knuckles, before letting his hands hover over the keyboard. “Okay,” he said. “What do we want to know?”
“Let’s look into the original murder first,” Shawn said.
Gus nodded. He typed “Murder at the Dah-Ling Store-it-Yourself” and got about three thousand hits. Gus clicked on the article by the Santa Barbara Herald first.
The Murder at the Dah-Ling Store-It-Yourself, by Betty Bertworth.
“Okay, okay, let’s move on,” Shawn said, shoving Gus out of his way to return to the Google homepage.
On May 25, 2007, Avery Daily was shot and killed during the nightshift at the Dah-Ling Store-It-Yourself. Daily, a 49-year-old security guard, was reportedly a dedicated and trustworthy worker, who gave his life in an attempt to stop a robbery. Ava Dah-Ling, the 26-year-old daughter of the proprietor, took her father’s shotgun from behind the reception desk and managed to keep the suspect on the scene until help could arrive. The accused is Cyril Riner, a 36-year-old man with no criminal history. The police have said the case is open and shut. “I think it’s obvious what happened here,” Det. Carlton Lassiter said in a recent interview. “He was trying to rob the place and he panicked. We see it all the time.” The SBPD plans to prosecute Riner to the full extent of the law, and the trial—
“Watch it, Shawn,” Gus said. “I’ve got this.” Gus shoved him back over, and Shawn went limp against the back of the couch.
“You’ve got issues, is what you’ve got,” he said. “Fine. You can control the search engine. I bow to your mad skills.”
“What do you want me to look for?” Gus asked, rearranging the laptop in front of him.
“Oh, now you want to know?” Shawn asked.
“Stop playing, Shawn,” Gus said. “I’m ready to search.”
“I’m not exactly sure what we need to be looking for yet.” Shawn frowned, and leaned forward again. “But the Dah-Ling Store-It-Yourself isn’t exactly in the best part of town.”
“So?” Gus demanded.
“So just because nothing was ever reported missing doesn't mean nothing was,” Shawn explained. “We need to see if there were any other robberies that took place right before the murder.”
“You think they were stealing from thieves?” Gus demanded.
“Gus, what do you take to a Store-It-Yourself?” Shawn asked. “You take your old sofas and your analog televisions and all that other stuff you aren't ever going to use again but can't bear to get rid of. You don't take anything there that's worth stealing, not unless you're a criminal, looking for an easy place to stash your stolen goods.”
Gus's eyes went bright. “You mean that Cyril was robbing stolen goods, because they wouldn't ever be reported stolen! That's smart. If he hadn't killed that guard, he might have gotten away with it.”
“That's just it,” Shawn said. “He didn't kill that guard, and whoever planned this? They have gotten away with it. At least so far. Clavor’s got more aliases than Sydney Bristow, so we still don't know who he really is. For all we know he got away with millions. Except—”
“What?” Gus asked.
“Except he seems like kind of an idiot,” Shawn said. “Cyril said it was Clavor that came after us, and the guy seemed drunk, couldn't hardly shoot straight. And killing that guard? That was unprofessional. If he'd just knocked him out they would have all gotten away clean.”
“Maybe he got lucky,” Gus said. “Maybe it's not so much that he had a great plan as things just kind of went his way.”
“Maybe,” Shawn said. “But I have a feeling Lassiter isn't the only one going after the wrong guy. I don't think Clavor is the only accomplice we should be looking for.”
Gus nodded and started another search for robberies in May 2007. He found another article with the Santa Barbara Herald right away.
Jewel Heist on High-Land Street, by Betty Bertworth
“But I bet they never did,” Shawn said, reaching over Gus to return to the Google menu and search for ‘High-Land Jewel Robbery.’
Last night, on May 23, 2007, $700,000.00 worth of loose diamonds were stolen from the safe of the High-Land Jewelers. The Jewelers were holding the diamonds for three days only while they were being catalogued for insurance purposes, and they were taken the night before they were scheduled to be transferred back to their owner, all without setting off any alarms. When the High-Land owners, Jeremy and Deacon Meyers, went to open the safe in the morning, they found the contents of the velvet bags meant to hold the diamonds had been replaced with rock salt. It was a familiar MO to the FBI agents that had been called in to investigate the case. Though the FBI was unavailable for comment, Det. Carlton Lassiter with the SBPD stated they were connecting the robbery to at least four other similar cases from the last five years. “This is the one,” he said. “We’re going to get them.”
“Shawn, what did I say?” Gus asked, smacking his hands away. “Yeah, it doesn’t look like the case was ever closed.”
“No, it wouldn’t have been,” Shawn said, standing. “Because those diamonds were probably at the Dah-Ling Store-It-Yourself, taken by Clavor when he fled the scene.”
“How can you be so sure?” Gus asked. “I’m sure there were lots of other robberies before the murder. You haven’t even looked at these others yet.”
Shawn shook his head. “No, this is it, Gus! Cyril told me Clavor used to belong to a group of jewel-thieves. This was an inside job. He was ripping his buddies off. He knew where they were keeping the diamonds, so he stages it like a robbery, and he gets away with everything. Meanwhile, Cyril, he takes the fall, so Clavor’s old crew never even comes after him.”
“But you said that this Clavor guy is still hanging around that strip bar right?” Gus asked. “He doesn’t exactly seem to be rolling in dough.”
“Those diamonds are hot, right?” Shawn asked. “How hard is it to sell stolen diamonds?”
“It can’t be easy,” Gus said, with all the self-importance of a man that subscribes to Safe-Crackers Monthly. “They’ve got the technology to fingerprint diamonds these days. High-Land is one of the few American jewelers implementing it. I’ll bet that’s why they were holding those diamonds in the first place, to insure them against theft.”
“Well, they did the worst job ever,” Shawn said.
“I mean they were fingerprinting them, taking pictures of the flaws within the diamonds and cataloguing them. Each diamond has a unique print on it. If these diamonds ever turn up, I bet they could identify them,” he said.
“How do you know so much about this?” Shawn asked him. “Diamond fingerprinting? Really? This is how you spend your time?”
“It’s an amazing technological advance in the fight against crime, Shawn,” Gus snapped. “Most people would be interested.”
“Whatever, the point is that Clavor, or whoever hired him, is probably having trouble getting rid of the goods,” he said. “Otherwise Clavor wouldn’t still be here, not with that kind of money.”
“How does any of this help us find the murderer?” Gus asked him.
“Because if we find those diamonds, we’ll find our murderer,” Shawn said. “Do you know anything at all about fencing diamonds?”
“Sorry, no,” Gus said. “It’s yet to come up.”
“Yeah, I was afraid of that,” Shawn said. “And I don’t think Lassie’s going to be very forthcoming on the subject if I ask him.”
“You could ask your father,” Gus told him.
“The last time I saw him he was threatening to out me as a fake to the police, so I’m thinking showing up now to hit him up for advice on a case probably wouldn’t go down well.”
Gus went still. “Your father’s going to tell the police about us? And you didn’t tell me?” he demanded. “Shawn, we’re going to prison!”
Shawn snorted. “Please, he’s not going to tell them.”
“That’s what you said when you stole that car,” Gus protested.
“I did not steal that car, I borrowed it, and okay, I admit, that was a slight misjudgment on my part,” Shawn said. “But my father is much more mellow these days, and I’m not going to admit to anything anyway. I’d just tell the police that he’s trying to get me fired because he doesn’t want me working cases anymore, and he knows it.”
“I didn’t realize things were this bad with him,” Gus said.
“It’s fine,” Shawn said, turning away. “It’s about time I remembered not to rely on him.”
“Shawn—” Gus started.
“There’s something else I’ve been wondering about,” Shawn interrupted, shamelessly changing the subject. “How did Cyril escape?”
Gus sighed, but let him do it. “I don’t even need to look that up,” he said. “I’ve been following this from the beginning, and I know as much about it as anyone.”
“Well?” Shawn prompted.
“Nobody knows,” Gus said. “One minute he was in his cell, the next, poof, he was gone.”
“So magic then? Really? That’s your explanation?” Shawn sat back down beside him, pulling the laptop towards him to enter a search.
“That’s all anyone knows,” Gus said, letting Shawn look for himself this time.
Shawn scanned the articles briefly before closing the laptop and getting back to his feet. “No, that’s just all the police are saying,” he said. “It’s not all anyone knows, because people can’t just magically dematerialize from prison. Nobody would stay there.”
“I guess we’re not going to find out then,” Gus said. “Because I seriously doubt the police are going to tell you anything about this case right now. They want you out of it.”
“So we’ll have to find out for ourselves, as usual,” Shawn said, grabbing a jacket off the back of his couch and heading towards the door.
Gus moved in front of him to block his way. “Shawn, I thought we talked about this,” he said. “No more jumping into situations blind.”
“It’s the police station,” Shawn assured him. “What could happen?”
“The police station?” Gus said. “You want to read the case files? Are you nuts? We could get arrested!”
“Exactly!” Shawn said. “And honestly, when that’s the worst case scenario in one of my
plans, we’re kind of ahead of the game.”
“Sad but true,” Gus admitted. “I don’t know why I let you talk me into these things.”
“Because under all those neatly pressed shirts and that deeply ingrained desire to follow the rules, you, Burton Guster, are an adventurer at heart,” Shawn said.
Gus gave a sly little grin, and touched up the collar of his shirt. “That’s true,” he admitted. “But still, I’m not sure I want to commit a felony.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Gus,” Shawn said. “I’m sure we’d only be charged with a misdemeanor.”
“Be quiet,” Shawn whispered.
“Don’t you tell me to be quiet, I’m like the Jackal, I—”
“You’re amazing, I know,” Shawn interrupted. “Just stop talking.”
They glanced around the corner. Buzz was pushing a chalkboard out of the bullpen, and there weren’t a lot of others around. Shawn figured they’d probably been working double shifts during his abduction, and now most of them had been sent home. He motioned for Gus to go and they darted across the hall into the next one, and then down the stairs.
“Where are we going?” Gus demanded.
“Lassiter’s command center,” Shawn said.
“Lassie doesn’t have the big office yet,” Shawn explained. “So he uses one of the lesser-known interrogation rooms to store his notes.”
“How did you find out about it?” Gus asked.
“Please, as though Lassie has any secrets from me,” Shawn said, and at Gus’s look he shrugged. “Okay, so I stalk him in my spare time. It was getting too easy following you.”
Shawn opened the next door they came to. They both rushed inside and Shawn closed the door behind them before turning around.
His mouth dropped open. “Woah,” he said. “This is a little more Mahone than Gerard.”
“This is creepy,” Gus said, as he glanced around the room.
Shawn looked around the room. There was a white board that had been set up, pictures hung up with magnets covering almost every inch. Cyril’s mugshot, Cyril’s cell, the Dah-Ling Store-It-Yourself. Notes had been written in the few bare spaces with red permanent marker.
He moved to the table in the middle of the room. There were at least as many pictures there, arranged in different sequences. More of the prison as well as the Store-It-Yourself.
Shawn slid a yellow notebook towards him. Lassiter’s almost undecipherable cursive ran straight across every line there was on the first few pages. They were notes on the interviews that Lassiter had with each of the on-duty guards. Only one of them caught Shawn’s eye.
Reed-Fry checked out at 9 PM at the end of his shift the night before the escape, and drove off the premises in his jeep at 9:06. Fry was scheduled to work the morning shift the next day though he typically works nights, and he reported Riner missing at 6:44 AM. He was first on scene.
Fry did not have his jeep the next day. Did not clock in. Claimed to have left badge at home when questioned. It was found in kitchen when home searched.
Says dropped off at work by one-night stand. Does not remember her name. Warden assures us Fry can be trusted. Has worked at the prison without incident for almost a year.
Will keep an eye on him anyway.
Shawn took his eyes away from the notes and picked up a manila envelope labeled “personal effects.” He opened it up and dumped it across the table. Gus glanced up, angrily holding a finger to his lips, and Shawn just rolled his eyes.
He pushed his way through Cyril’s personal effects. There wasn’t much to see. The wallet was empty, the clear plastic photo cases all unused. There were two keys on a key ring that had a snapshot of a beautiful snowcapped mountain. Shawn vaguely recognized the mountain, but couldn’t quite place it. He knew he’d seen the same photo somewhere before.
“Did you see this?” Gus asked him, walking over to join him with a print out of some kind. “It looks like a roster of all the guards on duty during the escape.”
Shawn was about to dismiss that as useless since he had already read over Lassiter’s interviews, but he frowned when he saw the last name on the list and snatched the paper out of Gus’s hands, before spreading it out on the table in front of him.
“What is it?” Gus asked.
“Shh,” Shawn said. “Give me a sec.”
Shawn stared at the name on the page for a moment, before the letters started to rearrange themselves in his mind. They coalesced with a snap: Fred Greenly. Shawn broke out into a grin. “Gus, I know how he did it!”
Gus looked smug, as though by finding the paper he’d solved the case himself. He leaned down to look at the name Shawn was pointing to, and frowned when he didn’t find it recognizable.
“Who’s Glen Reed-Fry?” he asked.
“It’s an anagram for Fred Greenly,” Shawn explained.
“So what?” Gus asked.
“So this Glen Reed-Fry has been a guard at the prison for a year, and that just happens to be around the time Cyril told me his friend Fred Greenly died,” Shawn said. “And I guess in a way he did. He died and became Glen Reed-Fry.”
“Even if he had a friend on the inside,” Gus said, “that doesn’t explain how he got out.”
“Yes it does,” Shawn said, glancing through Lassiter’s notes again until he found the one for Reed-Fry. “And I think that Lassiter’s actually figured this one out for me. I just don’t know if he knows it yet.”
The door behind them flew open, and Shawn spun around, dropping the notes. He stepped back, looking wide-eyed and slightly panicked. It was so unlike Shawn to show so much reaction that Lassiter’s accusations died on his lips and it was a moment before he even stepped into the room. “Spencer—” he started.
Shawn caught his balance in record time and flashed him a grin. “Lassie! What a surprise, seeing you here.”
Gus looked like a deer in the headlights, and he reached out to grab Shawn’s sleeve and pull him further back. “Detective Lassiter,” he said, his voice wavering only a little.
“Guster, out,” Lassiter snapped.
“I don’t think so,” Gus said, staying beside Shawn.
Shawn was impressed. Usually, Gus would have been halfway to the door already with an offer of a get-out-of-jail-free card like that. Then he started to worry just how bad he must look that Gus didn’t want to leave him there alone. He swallowed, keeping his eyes on Lassiter. “It’s fine, Gus,” he said. “He’s not here to get me in trouble. He’s just trying to work up the courage to ask for my help.”
Lassiter shook his head, stepping closer. “I don’t think so,” he snapped.
“Shawn,” Gus started nervously.
“Go ahead and go home for awhile,” Shawn said. “Can I call you later for a ride?”
”Of course, but, Shawn—”
“We’ll be fine, won’t we, Lassie?” Shawn asked.
“I’m not going to kill him if that’s what you’re worried about,” Lassiter said dryly. “Not today. It’s too much paperwork and my schedule’s full as it is.”
“You’re very snappy today,” Shawn said. “I think someone forgot to have his Wheaties.”
“Be nice,” Gus whispered frantically, before carefully sliding along the wall around Lassiter. “I’ll just be going then. I expect you not to let Shawn end up kidnapped this time.”
Lassiter turned around to yell at him but Gus was gone. “He’s like a Jackal,” Shawn explained. “His stealth knows no bounds. One minute he’s there, then he’s gone. Kind of like a certain other person we both know.”
“You shouldn’t be in here,” Lassiter said, turning back around. “I thought you were in the hospital. You still should be.”
Shawn laughed. "Thanks for the concern, but I'm fine," he said.
Lassiter pushed him gently against the wall, holding him in place. "No, you're not."
“I see after years of my subtle conditioning, you’ve finally lost your sense of personal space,” Shawn said, backing up as far as he could against the wall.
“What the hell was that a minute ago, Spencer?” Lassiter asked. “You looked like I was going to kill you.”
“Well, you threaten to all the time, so who can blame me?” Shawn asked. “Really, I don’t see why you’re all so mad at Cyril, he only did the same thing.”
“Don’t you compare me to him,” Lassiter said dangerously. “I’m not him. And I’m not Drimmer.”
“I never said you were,” Shawn said slowly.
“And despite whatever I may say, I wouldn’t ever hurt you,” Lassiter snapped.
“I know that,” Shawn said.
“Okay, good,” Lassiter said, and finally stepped away. “I want you to tell me what you see.”
“A dashing police detective in a very sporting tweed suit,” Shawn said.
“You know what I mean,” Lassiter said, long-suffering. “I know you’ve figured something out.”
“I didn’t figure out anything you don’t already know,” Shawn said easily. “All I did was glance at your notes. You’ve got all the information right there already.”
Lassiter tried to stare him down, but gave up after a moment and shook his head. “I need you to come with me,” he said.
“I don’t know,” Shawn said. “The last time you said that I ended up alone, handcuffed, and unsatisfied.”
“There’s been another murder,” Lassiter said stiffly.
Shawn went still. “Cyril—”
“It’s not Riner. We think it’s the guy that shot at you the other night. He matches the sketch we got of ‘Dave’ from your friend Amelia, but Vick wants you to go down there and identify him,” he said. “I’d like to go on record as being against it.”
“I’d like to see that record sometime,” Shawn said. “I bet your name’s on it a lot.”
Lassiter sighed heavily. “You know what I just said? About how I would never hurt you?”
Shawn grinned and walked past him. “No take-backs!” he called behind him.
“Question,” Shawn interrupted. “Do the ground rules still apply if you’re on the second floor?”
“We’re not on a second floor,” Lassiter snapped.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Shawn asked.
Lassiter sighed deeply, resisting the urge to put his head in his hands. He’d been counting pretty much the whole ride here, and he was now at about seven hundred and sixty five. He still wanted to strangle Spencer, and he was starting to regret his former promises of restraint. “These are the rules, and they apply at any altitude,” he said slowly. “You stay by me.”
Lassiter just knew he was going to regret that first one.
“How close are we talking?” Shawn asked.
“I want you in my line of sight,” Lassiter snapped, backing up when Shawn leaned against him. “There’s no need for touching.”
“But I thought we could hold hands,” Shawn suggested. “Then you’ll always know where I am.”
“We’re not holding hands,” Lassiter said.
“You said you were going to be nice to me,” Shawn protested.
“I said nothing of the sort,” Lassiter said. “I said I would never hurt you.”
“You’re hurting my feelings,” Shawn said. “Does that count?”
“No,” Lassiter said. “Secondly, we go over there, you identify the body, we leave. No dilly-dallying.”
“Did you seriously just say dilly-dallying?” Shawn asked. “Because I don’t even know what to say to that.”
“Good,” Lassiter said, and grabbed Shawn’s arm to start pulling him towards Juliet and the others.
“Hey, there’s no need for touching,” Shawn echoed primly. The others were standing about twenty feet from the side of the road that led back down to the Hottie Tottie, but Shawn was having some trouble pinpointing its exact location during the daytime, without the neon lights to guide him.
Juliet ran over to meet them. “Shawn!” she said, grabbing him into a hug. “I’m so glad you’re alright! We were so worried.”
“I know, Lassiter’s been telling me how happy he is to get me back alive,” Shawn said. “He says he never wants me out of his sight again.”
“That’s not exactly what I said,” Lassiter snapped, while Juliet looked at him with a pleased grin.
“Well, I think that’s a great idea,” she said. “It’s obvious you shouldn’t be trusted alone. That’s two kidnappings in two weeks.”
“I’m going for a world record,” Shawn said. “If this doesn’t pan out, I thought about seeing how many bunnies I could snuggle with in a hammock, but then again, I’m not sure I can stand the thought of one-upping Cameron Diaz.”
Juliet smiled bemusedly. “Right, well,” she said, carrying on. “We think we have an ID on the body. The driver’s license says his name is Mark Lyle. We ran a check on it and it seems legit.”
“What do we know about him?” Lassiter asked, stepping forward.
“He’s got quite the record,” she said. “But it was never anything too big. Just theft mostly, a few assault charges here and there. Nothing close to murder.”
”That you know about,” Shawn corrected.
“Shawn,” Juliet said softly. “You know how this looks.”
“If Cyril killed him, it was self-defense,” Shawn protested. “Though I really don’t know how he could have without any bullets left in his gun.”
“What do you mean Riner didn’t have any bullets in his gun?” Lassiter demanded.
“I didn’t tell you that?” Shawn asked. “He took me hostage with an empty gun. It’s kind of embarrassing, actually. For you, I mean. I’m just a civilian.”
“He shot out the light,” Lassiter said.
“With his last bullet,” Shawn told him.
“Maybe he keeps spare bullets in his glove box,” Lassiter snapped.
“Actually, I looked in the glove box, no bullets,” Shawn said.
“What were you doing in his glove box?” Lassiter asked.
“I get curious,” Shawn said defensively.
Lassiter glared at him, but Juliet interrupted before he could respond. ”Well, someone had bullets,” she said. “Lyle was shot three times.”
“Let’s just go get you to identify him so we can get out of here,” Lassiter said, grabbing Shawn by the arm again. Juliet nodded and led the way. Shawn subtly disengaged himself from Lassiter’s grip and moved towards the body. It was laid out in the middle of the road. Clavor’s—Lyle’s, that was—car was parked parallel to the road, looking untouched.
Shawn came to a stop in front of the body, tilting his head as he tracked the bullet holes, three of them, one a few inches from the bellybutton, one in the knee cap, another in his eye. It was one of the more gruesome corpses Shawn has had the displeasure to stumble on, and he hoped for the poor bastard’s sake the killer had started high and worked their way down.
“It’s definitely him,” he said after a moment. “This is Cyril’s partner James Clavor.”
“So Riner did have a partner after all,” Lassiter said. “And he killed him too.”
“You haven’t been listening to anything I’ve said to you, have you? This guy tried to kill us, not the other way around. Cyril isn’t even armed!” Shawn protested.
”I saw the gun, Spencer,” Lassiter snapped.
“Did you see the bullets? Cause like I’ve been saying, there weren’t any in it,” he said. “I checked. He even had the safety on.”
“Spencer, when did you last see Riner?” Lassiter asked calmly.
Shawn pressed his lips together and glanced away.
“Oh, that’s right,” Lassiter said. “He was chasing after Lyle, isn’t that right? What did you think he planned to do when he caught him? Riner’s the obvious suspect.”
“Or it’s someone who’s worried we're back investigating this case,” Shawn protested.
“Do you have to disagree with every single thing I say?” Lassiter demanded.
“Only for as long as you insist on being wrong,” Shawn said.
“Spencer,” Lassiter started.
Shawn’s phone ringing interrupted him. “Just a minute,” he said. “I have to take this. It’s a very important work call.”
Lassiter frowned, as though he doubted the possibility that Spencer could do anything important. Shawn turned and walked a few feet away before answering the phone. “Burton Guster speaking,” Shawn said.
“Shawn!” Gus shouted. “You stole my work phone?”
“Well, you had the day off, I didn’t think you’d need it, and Cyril threw mine out the window,” Shawn said.
”You know I’m very careful about my minutes, Shawn,” Gus snapped.
“Hey, you called me,” Shawn protested.
“It’s my phone!” Gus shouted, before heaving a sigh. “Alright, okay, I’m not mad.”
“Really? Because you kind of sound mad,” Shawn said.
“Just tell me where you are,” Gus said. “What did Lassiter want to talk to you about?”
“Clavor was found murdered, I had to identify the body,” Shawn said. “And we finally got a real name. Mark Lyle.”
“Jeez,” Gus said. “I guess Cyril caught up with him—”
“No, no way, Cyril didn’t kill Lyle. He wouldn’t have killed him in anything but self-defense, and he never would have shot him three times. Whoever killed Lyle, it was personal.”
“You don’t think Cyril takes what Lyle did personally?” Gus asked.
“Well, sure,” Shawn said. “But Cyril needed him alive, didn’t he? It’s going to be harder to prove that Lyle killed that guard now that he’s dead too. And what if that’s exactly the point?”
“I hate to tell you this, Shawn,” Gus said, “but Cyril had the most reason to want this guy dead.”
“I know, but he didn’t do it. I think I need to talk to Cyril,” Shawn said. “I’ll call you later, Gus.”
“What do you mean you’re going to talk to him? Shawn, he’s—”
Shawn hung up the call. He glanced back towards Lassiter. He was kneeling beside the body with Juliet, so Shawn stepped backwards a little further, before jogging across the street to the other side of the road.
Shawn closed his eyes to remember the phone number on Cyril’s disposable phone. He dialed it from memory, half-expecting Cyril not to answer the call, but it was only a moment before there was a hesitant “Hello?”
“Hey, buddy! How’s life on the lam?”
“Shawn?” Cyril demanded.
“Well, who else is going to be calling you? You’re a wanted criminal,” Shawn said. “Of course it’s me. You don’t have other hostages on the side, do you? I hope you haven’t given this number to just anyone.”
“I didn’t even give it to you,” Cyril said, with the kind of long-suffering exasperation it had taken years to inspire in Lassiter.
“Well, no, but it flashes on the screen when you turn it on,” Shawn explained.
“Shawn, I’m kind of in the middle of something,” Cyril said. “You know, avoiding the police and all. What’s this about?”
“We need to talk,” he said simply. “You’ve been lying to me.”
“Even if that were true, you’re psychic, shouldn’t you have known?” Cyril asked wryly.
“I’m not telepathic,” Shawn said indignantly. “I get a read off feelings, and you seemed sincere to me.”
“That’s because I was,” Cyril said. “Almost everything I said to you was true. Which means I’ve been at least as truthful with you as you have been with me.”
“Really?” Shawn asked. “Then why don’t you tell me how you escaped?”
“I got lucky, was all,” Cyril said.
“That’s all? You just ran through the halls and scaled the wall?” Shawn asked.
“Shawn, what is this about?” he asked again.
“I know Fred Greenly helped you get out,” Shawn said. “But I guess I should call him Glen Reed-Fry.”
“Maybe you are psychic,” Cyril said, after a moment. “Have you told anyone?”
“Not yet,” Shawn said. “But I plan to, because that’s my job, so in case you need to make any arrangements I suggest you do it quick.”
“Thanks for the head’s up,” Cyril said. “But why are you helping me?”
“I already told you that,” Shawn said. “I don’t think you’ve murdered anyone, and I don’t think Greenly has, either. But I need you to do something for me in return, I need you to tell me what happened last night after you threw me out of the truck.”
“I followed Clavor for a little longer, but he lost me. Why?” Cyril asked.
“Because he just turned up dead,” Shawn said.
There was a pause. “And you think I did it.”
“I don’t,” Shawn said. “Everyone else does.”
“I didn’t,” Cyril said. “I didn’t even get to talk with him. I don’t know who would have killed him.”
“See, that’s where I start to think you’re lying to me again,” Shawn said. “You’ve known more about this all along than you’ve been telling. I can’t help you if you don’t tell me all the facts.”
“Shawn, I don’t know who would have killed him, that’s the whole truth,” Cyril said. “I think it’s probably whoever really planned the robbery at the Dah-Ling Store-It-Yourself, but that’s all I know.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought too,” Shawn said.
“Spencer!” Lassiter shouted from the street.
Shawn guiltily ended the call just before Lassiter reached him, with his eyes narrowed suspiciously. “I said to stay in sight,” Lassiter said.
“You mean you couldn’t see me from just over there?” Shawn asked. He leaned past Lassiter and waved at Juliet. Juliet happily waved back. “Jules can see me.”
Lassiter gave Shawn a push back to the car. “We’re leaving,” he said. “Who was on the phone?”
“Cyril,” Shawn said.
“Funny,” Lassiter snapped, and then paused. “You were kidding, right? You weren’t actually talking to Riner?”
“Oh god!” Shawn shouted, throwing himself against the car. He brought a shaking hand to his forehead, and pressed his eyes shut. “Lassie, Lassie! I’m seeing something, oh, it’s big. Very big!”
“Spencer, what the hell’s wrong with you?” Lassiter demanded. Some of the nearby detectives all turned to watch as Shawn slid down to sit in the dirt road.
He looked up at Lassiter. “I know how he did it,” he said. “I know how Cyril escaped! You said his name, and it just came to me, like getting hit with a sledgehammer! You’re brilliant, Lassie! Your subconscious figured out the whole thing!”
“It did?” Lassiter asked.
Shawn grabbed Lassiter’s sleeve and pulled him to the ground, before framing the detective’s face with his hands and re-closing his eyes. “You were right about Glen Reed-Fry,” he said.
“I was?” Lassiter said. “I mean, of course I was! I knew he was in on it. It was just too convenient, him being there in the morning, he had to have—“
“But Cyril didn’t escape in the morning, of course,” Shawn interrupted. “No, you’re too clever to have fallen for that. Cyril escaped the night before.”
“Guys, are you alright?” Juliet asked hesitantly, as she walked over to join them.
“Shh, Jules, a moment, please,” Shawn said. “Lassiter’s having a breakthrough here.”
“No I’m not. They do bed checks, Spencer, by three different guards, each of them are required to see movement,” Lassiter said. “Are you saying they were all in on it?”
“No, only one of them was in on it, and he was the one in that bed,” Shawn said. “Cyril left in Fry’s uniform, with Fry’s jeep, the night before. The next morning, Fry wakes up in the cell, already in his spare uniform, and the moment the cell door opens he starts yelling that Riner’s escaped. And that’s when everyone starts looking, but by then he’s long gone.”
Lassiter’s eyes widened. “Son of a bitch!” he shouted, surging to his feet. “O’Hara, I want you to send out a black and white to pick up Glen Reed-Fry.”
“It’s too late,” Shawn said, gasping, holding onto the car while he recovered from his draining psychic vision. “He’s going to be long gone too.”
Lassiter paused again, turning back to Shawn. He kneeled back down in front of him and met his eyes. “But you just figured this out right now, right?” he asked quietly.
“I didn’t figure out anything, Lassie,” Shawn said. “It was all you.”
O’Hara was yelling into her cellphone a few feet away, and she returned a moment later shaking her head. “I put out the APB, but a patrol was nearby, and they said Fry’s place was cleaned out already. He’s gone.”
“Almost like he knew we were coming,” Lassiter said softly.
“Hey, maybe he’s psychic, too,” Shawn suggested.
Lassiter got to his feet again, and this time he dragged Shawn up with him. “Get in the car,” he snapped.
Shawn looked at Juliet, but she just shrugged. He sighed and got into the car, while Lassiter turned the key and glared straight ahead. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing,” he said. “The others might fall for your theatrics, but don’t expect me too.”
“It’s not my fault you’re so intelligent that you solved the escape without even realizing it,” Shawn protested.
“You figured it out, Spencer,” Lassiter snapped. “You walked into that room and glanced at that evidence I’ve been staring at for a week and you figured it out in five minutes.”
“That isn’t how it works,” Shawn protested.
“Spare me your explanations,” Lassiter said. “I know you’re not going to tell me how you really do it. I just really hope that you weren’t telling me the truth for once when you said it was Riner on that phone. If I have your phone records checked, what am I going to find?”
“Well, it’s Gus’s phone,” Shawn said. “So probably lots of calls to Miss Cleo.”
“Stop lying to me,” Lassiter snapped.
“Okay, you caught me, Gus doesn’t really call Miss Cleo,” Shawn said. “At least not on the work phone.”
“I don’t know why you couldn’t just stay out of this,” Lassiter said. “You always make everything so damn complicated.”
"It’s not my fault Cyril's innocent," Shawn protested. "I can’t just stand by and—”
“He kidnapped you!”
“—but he didn't kill anyone.”
Lassiter let out an exasperated laugh and shook his head, going just slightly faster than the posted speed limit. Shawn watched the speedometer with disbelief. “You ever hear of Stockholm Syndrome, Spencer?”
“No, what is that? The compulsive need to remain entirely neutral?” he asked.
“That’s Switzerland,” Lassiter snapped.
“Well, why don’t they call it Switzerland Syndrome, then?” Shawn demanded. “Who even knows where Stockholm is?”
“Because that’s not what it means, Spencer! Look, the point is, it’s when you start to sympathize with your kidnapper. Cyril’s going to prison for kidnapping you whatever else he's done, so I think you need to face up to that.”
“But he didn’t kidnap me,” Shawn said. “I went with him willingly.”
Lassiter slammed on the brakes, spinning the car off to the side of the road and pulling to a stop, before getting out and slamming the door. Shawn sat there for a moment in shocked silence before following him out.
Lassiter pointed at him over the car. “I don’t ever want to hear you saying that again. He took you against your will. I saw the whole thing.”
“He didn’t have any bullets,” Shawn said. “I could have walked away a million times and you know it.”
“Are you trying to get arrested?” Lassiter asked. “Is that what you want? Because just keep pushing me, Spencer, I mean it.”
“I’m trying to find out who’s really out there killing people!” Shawn said. “Because Cyril’s probably next!”
“Riner’s the one that did it!” Lassiter snapped.
“He wasn’t lying about James Clavor, you found him,” Shawn said. “He was telling the truth about that.”
“We found a corpse,” Lassiter said. “I’m still far from thinking Cyril Riner is innocent. Whatever they were there to steal Clavor probably had it, and Riner wanted it back.”
“You won’t even consider it, will you?” Shawn asked. “That I might be right.”
“You can’t always be right,” Lassiter snapped. “Statistically, you’re going to be wrong eventually.”
“Statistically?” Shawn asked. “Lassie! Who cares about statistics? I’m asking you to trust me here. I need you to trust me, for once. I think you owe me that, after everything.”
Lassiter pushed his shades back on his nose and looked back at the road. “Get back in the car, Spencer,” he said.
They didn’t say much more the rest of the way back to the station.
Lassiter was about to answer when he heard the passenger door slam. He saw Shawn start to head off down the sidewalk. “Spencer, get your ass back here! I’m not done talking with you.”
“I think you made your feelings pretty clear, and I’m not sure there’s anything left to say,” Shawn said.
Lassiter pointed to the station. “Wait for me inside.”
Shawn heaved a sigh, but went up the steps into the station. He frowned as he headed towards Lassiter’s desk. There was a woman sitting on the surface, putting on lipstick as she watched her reflection in a small circular mirror. She had her legs crossed at the ankles, her feet encased in what were probably $400.00 dollars worth of shoes. She was wearing a yellow tube dress that she seemed ready to pop right out of, and a tennis bracelet around one wrist.
She snapped the mirror closed and looked up, her long black hair flying everywhere, and that’s when Shawn recognized her. Ava Dah-Ling. The Dah-Ling Darling.
She frowned when she saw him. “Who are you?” she demanded.
“Shawn Spencer, police psychic,” Shawn said, holding out his hand for her to shake.
She stared at it for a moment, and then replaced her lipstick and mirror into her purse. “Then I suppose you know why I’m here,” she said. “And that it’s not to meet you.”
Shawn stared at his hand where it hovered in the air for a moment, before lowering it back down. “No, you’re here for Lassiter,” he said.
“Very good,” she said. “I suppose you gathered that because I’m waiting at his desk?”
“I’m sensing some hostility,” Shawn said.
“I don’t believe in charlatans,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him. “My father spent every spare cent he had on them, and they never helped him one bit.”
“Your father just died recently, isn’t that right?” Shawn asked, noting the past tense and the hesitant way she spoke of him.
“Yes, but I’m sure you saw that in the papers like everyone else,” she said.
“I’m starting to get why you want to talk with Lassiter,” Shawn told her.
Ava suddenly broke into a startling and blinding smile that transformed her completely. Shawn was taken off guard for a moment, until she rushed past him and straight into Lassiter’s arms.
“Oh, Carlton,” she said, clinging onto him. “I’ve been so scared!”
Lassiter awkwardly patted her on the back, and said, “There, there.”
Shawn scrunched up his face in confusion as Lassiter carefully tried to get out of Ava’s clutches. He sat her down in the chair beside his desk, and she started crying almost at once. “I saw it on the news, Riner’s escaped and he killed that man. He’s going to come after me next!”
“He doesn’t have any reason to come after you,” Lassiter said reassuringly. “But I can assign a patrol to drive by your house, alright?”
“Oh, that would be wonderful,” she said. “I’m all alone now, it gets so lonely by myself, and I get scared at every little noise.”
Shawn watched her carefully, tilting his head. This was not the same Ava he had been speaking with a moment ago. He just didn’t know whether the act was to get protection from Lassiter or something else. “Ava,” Shawn said, stepping closer. “How much did you see the night of the murder?”
She glared daggers at him, and haughtily tossed back her hair. “I saw everything.”
“And was Riner there alone?” Shawn asked. Lassiter glared at him, but he ignored it.
“Yes, he was alone, the whole time, and he shot that guard, bam, in cold blood. I saw the whole thing.”
“So you actually saw Riner shoot Tim Daly?” Shawn asked.
“That’s what I just said, isn’t it?” she demanded, before turning back to Lassiter. “Why is this man interrogating me? I’ve come here for help, not interrogation. I’ve told you all this before.”
Lassiter ushered Shawn to his desk chair. “Sit,” he said, before returning to Ava. “I’m very sorry about him. Why don’t you tell me why you’re so scared, okay?”
Ava reached out, and absentmindedly buttoned a loose cuff on Lassiter’s sleeve. Shawn glared at her as she did it. “He is out for revenge, yes? And I caught him. He would not have been in jail if not for me.”
Lassiter grabbed a business card off the stack on his desk. “Tell you what,” he said. “I want you to have this. It’s got my direct line. If you get scared at all, you can call me, okay?”
Ava nodded, wiping away her tears. She reached out and took the business card, and then she grabbed Lassiter’s cellphone from his desk. “I’ll give you mine, too,” she said, and entered her number into his phone. Lassiter took it back, bemused. “Then if you need anything, you can call me.”
Shawn rolled his eyes, and sunk further into the seat. As though she sensed it, Ava turned to glare at him. He smiled back sweetly.
Lassiter helped Ava up from the chair. “Let me walk you out,” he said, very gentlemanly, and led her out of the precinct, talking quietly with her all the while. Shawn strained to hear them, but couldn’t quite make out the words.
“She’s all wrong for you, you know,” Shawn said sullenly, when Lassiter returned.
Lassiter grabbed his arm to pull him back out of his chair, and sat down in his place. “It’s not like I’m planning on dating her, Spencer,” Lassiter snapped. “She’s a witness, and aside from that, she’s too young for me.”
“She’s only a couple of years younger than me,” Shawn protested, as he sat down on the edge of Lassiter’s desk.
“Then why don’t you date her?” Lassiter asked.
“She’s too high maintenance for my tastes, and anyway, she’s totally into you,” Shawn said.
“No she’s not,” Lassiter said patiently. “I was one of the first responders when the murder happened. I helped calm her down. She’s just thankful.”
“So she was pretty broken up about it then?” Shawn asked. “The murder?”
“She was very close to the guard,” Lassiter said. “They were good friends.”
“Well, that’s interesting, considering she doesn’t even remember his name,” Shawn said.
Lassiter paused. “What are you talking about?”
“The guard’s name was Avery Daily, not Tim Daly. Tim Daly played the uninteresting brother on Wings. Seriously, how do you not know this stuff?” Shawn picked up one of Lassiter’s business cards, read it front to back, and then stuck it down his front jeans pocket.
“So what, Spencer? So she forgot. It was years ago,” Lassiter said.
“If someone was murdered right in front of you, wouldn’t you remember their name?” Shawn asked. “Wouldn’t you care enough to do that much at least? I’m not ever going to forget Drimmer, and I didn’t even like him.”
Lassiter sighed, and leaned back in his chair. “Spencer, here’s a little life lesson. Most of these people are too involved with their own lives to care much about what happens to the people around them. Ava Dah-Ling isn’t going to win any awards for being the citizen of the year. She got her fifteen minutes of fame and went a little crazy with it. But she didn’t hurt anyone, and we don’t arrest people for being self-centered. If we did, I would have put you in jail years ago.”
“I think I’m actually offended by that,” Shawn said. “But you’re missing my point.”
“You have a point?” Lassiter asked.
“Yes, and my point is that she’s lying, it’s just a matter of about how much,” Shawn said.
“How do you figure that?” Lassiter asked incredulously.
“Because she said she saw Cyril shoot Daily,” Shawn said. “And Cyril didn’t shoot Daily. So. Lying.”
“Or,” Lassiter said wryly, “Cyril did shoot Daily, and that’s exactly what she saw.”
“Let’s just agree to disagree,” Shawn said, as he stood and started walking backwards towards the door. “I’ll be right, and you can be wrong.”
“Hey, back here,” Lassiter said. “You need to be debriefed.”
“I hope that’s not what it sounds like,” Shawn said. “Because it’s laundry day and I’m wearing my granny panties.”
Lassiter ignored him. “I haven’t had a chance to find out what happened after Riner left with you that night,” he said. “We’ve let you slide on the official questioning because of your status as a consultant, but we need to know what happened.”
“Last time I tried to tell you what happened, you told me never to say it again,” Shawn said.
Lassiter rubbed at his forehead and bit back another sigh. “Just stick to the facts, Spencer.”
“We drove off,” Shawn said. “Cyril recognized me, and wanted my help. I told him I needed Red Bull, so then we went to the Seven Eleven.”
“You went to Seven Eleven?” Lassiter asked.
“Yes, for Red Bull, please keep up,” Shawn said. “Then we went to the strip club.”
“And why did you go to the strip club?” Lassiter asked.
“Because we were looking for Mark Lyle,” Shawn said. “I knew he’d be there.”
“Of course you did,” Lassiter said. “And how was that?”
“Psychic,” Shawn said.
“Right, of course,” Lassiter said, with false patience. “And what happened when you got there?”
“I had a charming conversation with a beautiful young lady named Amelia, and then I got shot at, and thrown from a moving vehicle. It was only going like twenty miles per hour, but when I tell this story later I’m going to up it to at least forty-five.” Shawn looked at his feet thoughtfully. “Do you think I could sell fifty?”
“And did Cyril tell you how he escaped?” Lassiter asked.
“No,” Shawn said. “I told you, that came from you.”
“So basically you have nothing relevant to tell me,” Lassiter said.
“I wouldn’t say that in such general terms, because I know all kinds of relevant things,” Shawn said. “But if you’re specifically referring to the case, then yes. Pretty much.”
Lassiter watched him carefully. “What were you doing in that room?” he asked. “The one with my notes.”
“I was lost,” Shawn said.
“Psychics can get lost?” Lassiter asked.
“I know I make it look really effortless, but to be psychic is not to be all-knowing,” Shawn said. “We thought it was the bathroom.”
“You and Gus go to the bathroom together?” Lassiter asked.
“Sure. We like to gossip at the stalls,” Shawn said. “Girl talk, you know.”
“Uh huh,” Lassiter said. “Why are you so interested in Cyril’s escape? If you really think he’s innocent, then what does that part even matter?”
“It’s not that Cyril escaped that interests me,” Shawn said. “It’s how he did it.”
Lassiter leaned back in his chair, staring at the surface of his desk. “So is that it?” Shawn asked. “Are we debriefed?”
“You’re hiding something from me,” Lassiter said. “I want to know what.”
“I’ve told you everything,” Shawn said, and started back towards the door.
Lassiter stood up and followed him. “Spencer,” he said. “We’re not finished.”
“I answered your questions, I played along,” Shawn said. “But there’s nothing else that I can tell you, not unless you let me actually go start investigating.”
“You’re not working this case,” Lassiter snapped.
Shawn started down the front steps. “Not at the moment, no, because I’ve been rather selflessly devoting my time to entertaining you,” he said.
Lassiter grabbed his arm to swing him back around as he reached the bottom steps. “Spencer, have you learned nothing from what happened with Drimmer?”
“I learned you can’t even always trust cops,” Shawn said. “Although, to be fair to Drimmer, my father did a pretty good job of teaching me that too.”
“I told you before, I’m not anything like him,” Lassiter said.
“You’re the one that keeps bringing up the comparison,” Shawn said. Lassiter let go of Shawn’s arm, and he spun in place, feeling the hairs on his neck starting to stand up. He had that sudden cold feeling that people always get when they’re being watched. He glanced around, but there wasn’t anyone that he could see. There was a maroon Cadillac parked around the corner, but no one was inside.
“Spencer, look at me,” Lassiter snapped.
“We’re being watched,” Shawn told him.
“What?” Lassiter asked, one hand going to his holster automatically. He grabbed Shawn by the back of his shirt with this free hand and pushed him back towards the precinct. He may doubt Shawn’s every other word, but he knew better than to second-guess his instincts. “Back inside.”
Lassiter shoved Shawn onto the bench in the entryway and then held a whispered conversation with a couple of patrolmen, before sending them outside. He walked back over to Shawn. “They’re going to check around,” he said. “And you’re going to call Guster and have him come take you home.”
Shawn wanted to protest purely on principle, but the truth was he’d been planning on doing that anyway before Lassiter had chased him out the door. He pulled out the phone and dialed Gus’s number. Lassiter looked satisfied and headed back to his desk.
“Shawn?” Gus said at once. “What’s going on? I thought you would have called by now.”
“Lassiter’s been interrogating me,” Shawn said. “I’m at the station. Think you can swing by?”
“I’ll be there in seven minutes,” Gus said.
Shawn dropped the phone back in his pocket and got to his feet. He could feel Lassiter’s eyes boring into him, and made a point not to look his way. Shawn noticed the patrolmen return. Lassiter walked up to them, snapping out a, “report,” and Shawn discreetly slipped within hearing range.
“We didn’t see anything, sir,” one of them said. “Do you want us to keep looking?”
Lassiter was looking at Shawn when he answered. “No, that’s fine. Thank you.” He turned and walked back to his desk.
Gus was there a moment later, and the first thing he did was snatch the phone out of Shawn’s pocket. “I’ll be taking that back,” he said. “I hope you didn’t go over my minutes.”
“Stop trying to feel me up,” Shawn said.
Gus looked past him towards Lassiter, who had returned to his paperwork the moment he saw Gus come in. “What’s going on?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Shawn said. “The usual. Let’s just go.”
“Are you okay?” Gus asked, as they headed out and got into the car. “Did you really call Cyril on my phone?”
“Don’t worry, Cyril’s phone can’t be traced, nothing could be proven,” Shawn said.
“That doesn’t make me feel better, Shawn,” Gus snapped.
Shawn was watching all the mirrors as they turned out into the road, and every few minutes he glanced behind them. “What’s the matter with you?” Gus asked. “You’re making me nervous.”
“I think we’re being followed,” Shawn said.
“What?” Gus demanded.
“Well, actually, I think I’m being followed,” Shawn said. “It’s just that you’re driving the car.”
“Shawn, I’m going back to the station,” Gus said.
“No, they’re too smart for that,” Shawn said, squinting back into the rearview. “Whoever it is avoided the patrol Lassie sent out to find them.”
The car behind them was a Beetle, not exactly the recommended choice for surveillance, but Shawn spotted the same maroon Cadillac from earlier, and it was always staying two or three cars behind, steadily following their every direction. “Got you,” Shawn whispered. “Pull over, Gus.”
“What? No way, Shawn,” Gus said. “We’re being stalked. You don’t get out of the car. I’m sure there’s a rule about that.”
“There’s not a rule about it,” Shawn said. “Pull over.”
Gus was glaring at him, but he did it. Shawn watched as the maroon Cadillac pulled out of traffic and parked along the sidewalk about twenty-five feet behind them. He opened the door and hopped out of the car.
“Shawn! Shawn, get back here,” Gus said, unsnapping his seatbelt and reluctantly following him out.
Shawn approached the car cautiously, eyes tracking the man in the driver’s seat. He was wearing a blue baseball cap pulled low over his eyes, and Shawn had the worst feeling that he knew exactly who it was. He stepped up to the driver’s side door and slapped a hand twice down on the window.
The window rolled down and the man looked up, tilting the hat back further on his head. “Shawn.”
“Dad?” Shawn said, disbelieving. “You got a rental so you could spy on me?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Shawn, the car belongs to a friend,” Henry told him. “Guy owed me a favor.”
“Seek help,” Shawn told him. “You’ve finally lost your mind!”
“I know exactly what I’m doing, you’re the one I’m worried about. And the fact that you ran right over here without knowing who I was just goes to prove any point I was going to make,” Henry snapped. “I could have been some psycho!”
“Don’t sell yourself short, dad,” Shawn said.
Henry opened the door, climbing out of the car angrily. “I’m trying to protect you.”
“There are less creepy ways to go about it!” Shawn snapped. “You could remind me to wear sunblock, and to always have a coat, like a normal parent.”
“And you could be a normal kid, so those could be my biggest worries,” Henry said.
“I hate to tell you this, dad, but if you wanted a normal kid,” Shawn said, “you went about it all wrong.”
“When are you going to stop blaming me for everything?” Henry demanded. “I should call Vick up right now, and end this little charade once and for all.”
“But you won’t,” Shawn said. “Or you would have done it already.”
“Yeah, okay, just cause you’re so damn smart, Shawn, I’ll give you that one. You want to know why? You want to know what happens if you get revealed as a fake?” Henry demanded. “Every single guy you helped put away gets an appeal. And unlike you, I actually think about the consequences of something before I do it.”
“I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that you’re covering your own ass,” Shawn said.
“No, Shawn, it didn’t,” Henry snapped. “Because if I could get you out of this mess you’ve gotten yourself into without destroying all these people around us, I’d do it in a heartbeat, and to hell with what it would do to me.”
“I’m not listening to this,” Shawn said, throwing up his arms. “Seriously, dad, get yourself a hobby.”
Shawn spun on his heel and went back to Gus’s Echo. At some point, Gus had returned to the car, and when Shawn tried to open the door, it was locked. He tapped on the glass, but Gus was avoiding meeting his eyes. He rolled the window down all of half an inch.
“Gus, open the door,” Shawn said.
“Go talk with your father, Shawn,” Gus said, and started the car.
“Gus! Gus, don’t you dare leave me here,” Shawn said. “Open this door, Gus. Gus! Gus!”
“I know better than to get in the middle of this,” Gus told him, and then hit the gas and sped away.
Shawn pushed himself back a few steps to avoid being run down, and then turned back to look over at his father. Henry was leaning back against the driver’s side of the car, arms crossed and looking only slightly smug.
“Did you need a ride?” he asked.
Shawn stared at his father for a moment, leaning against that borrowed Cadillac in his blue baseball hat. Then he laughed and started heading down the road. “Thanks,” he said. “But I think I’ll walk.”
Henry pushed off the car to follow him. “Where are you going, Shawn?”
“I’ve got a case to solve,” he said. “Remember? That thing you taught me how to do?”
“Just get in the car,” Henry snapped. “We can talk about this.”
Shawn stopped and turned back around. “Don’t you mean you can talk about this? Because that’s how it goes, right? You tell me what I should be doing with my life, because obviously, you know best.”
“I’m sorry, okay?” Henry snapped. “Is that what you want me to say?”
“For which part?” Shawn demanded. “For threatening to end my career, for the stalking, or for never believing in me in the first place?”
“I’m only trying to protect you,” Henry said. “And I’ve always known the person I had to protect you from the most was yourself. Ever since you were six years old and jumped off the roof to try and fly.”
“You’re going to hold that against me, too?” Shawn asked, and started crossing the street.
Henry grabbed his arm and forcefully tugged him back, just as a car sped by them. “Stay out of the damn road,” he shouted.
Shawn watched the taillights of the car disappear dispassionately. “I saw it,” he said. “It would have missed me.”
“Because you know everything, right?” Henry said. “And you’re invincible. Is that what you think?”
“Life wouldn’t be any fun if you were invincible,” Shawn said. “But that doesn’t mean you stand by and watch the world go by. If anyone understands that, it’s you. You used to do what I’m doing for a living.”
“I never did what you do,” Henry said. “I followed protocol.”
“Would it really make that much difference to you?” Shawn demanded. “If I’d done it. If I’d gone through the academy and gotten a badge and a gun and the uniform and all of it, would it really make that much of a difference?”
“I came to terms with the fact that that wasn’t ever going to happen a long time ago, Shawn,” Henry said.
“That doesn’t answer the question,” Shawn said.
“Yeah,” Henry said. “Yeah, it would make a difference, Shawn, because I don’t like that you think you can do this job without it. The badge, and the gun, and all that comes with it, that’s supposed to be there to protect you.”
“I can do this job just fine without it,” Shawn said. “Better, even.”
“For how long?” Henry demanded. “How long until you misjudge something, Shawn, and the only back up you’ve got is Gus? How long until you get yourself killed because you missed something or even just because you figured it out, and you go barreling into the middle of things the way you always do?”
“Is that really what’s bothering you?” Shawn asked, like he almost couldn’t believe it. He’d expected his father to go on and on about the honor to serve, the good SBPD name, the way he was dragging it all through the mud. He didn’t know what to do with the fact that his father was actually worried.
“Please just get in the car, Shawn,” Henry said.
If it had been a demand, Shawn would have kept walking. But it sounded more like a plea, or anyway as close to it as Henry could get, so after a brief hesitation he got in the car.
He slumped into the passenger seat while his father got in to drive, and turned to look out the window. “So how long have you been following me?” he asked.
Henry cleared his throat. “Since I saw you on TV,” he said. “I got the feeling that you weren’t going to stop working this case.”
“I thought that was clear when I told you that I wasn’t going to stop working this case,” Shawn said.
Henry looked over at him. “You really know this guy is innocent?” he asked.
“Yes,” Shawn said. “Murderers don’t take hostages with empty guns, they don’t try and clear their names. If he’d left the country right after he escaped he could be sipping Mai Tai’s in Tahiti by now, but he didn’t.”
Henry’s hands tightened on the steering wheel, but he nodded. “Okay, then,” he said. “What can I do to help?”
Shawn looked confused. “I don’t understand the question,” he said.
Henry sighed deeply. “I’m offering an olive branch here, okay?” he said. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
“I thought your philosophy was if you can’t beat ‘em, throw them in jail,” Shawn said. “Turn here, I need to go to the office.”
Henry made the turn, and kept his eyes on the road. “The sooner we get this figured out, the sooner we’ve got another person off the street that wants to kill you.”
“They haven’t come after me at all,” Shawn said. “The only guy that did come after me was the innocent one.”
“Yet, Shawn,” Henry said. “But if Riner really didn’t kill Lyle, then that means someone’s covering their tracks, and they’re not going to want you around when you figure this all out.”
“How do you know about Lyle?” Shawn demanded.
“Maybe I’m psychic too,” Henry said. “Or maybe I’ve still got a friend or two on the force.”
“Right,” Shawn said. “Well, you might be right. I’ve suspected for awhile that Lyle wasn’t working this alone. He just didn’t seem smart enough.”
“So you’ve overlooked something,” Henry said.
Shawn glared at him for a moment and shook his head. “I haven’t overlooked anything, I just don’t have the whole picture yet. Cyril’s been lying to me,” he explained.
Henry snorted. “He kidnapped you, which you’re fine with, but the lying bothers you?”
“Yes, because the lying doesn’t make sense,” Shawn said. “I already know he didn’t kill that guard, so what is he trying to hide?”
“Maybe he did do it,” Henry said simply.
Shawn shook his head. “No, he wouldn’t kill anyone. Cyril told me he was caught by Ava because he was checking to see if Daily was still alive, and all the testimony seems to support it. If he’d killed that guard in cold-blood like everyone says, he would have run out of there just as fast as Lyle.”
“But you said it yourself, he’s hiding something,” he said. “I heard you figured out how escaped. Glen Reed-Fry, wasn’t it?”
“You’re like a crime gossip,” Shawn said. “What, do you and your buddies in blue call each other every five minutes?”
“Focus, Shawn,” Henry said.
“I already know why he lied about Fred Greenly and the escape. He was protecting his friend,” Shawn said. “That part I understand. He told me Greenly was dead because legally he is. Fred Greenly created a new identity for himself. But there’s something else about what he told me that’s not adding up. Lassiter’s research paints a very different picture of Cyril than what I’ve seen.”
“I thought you knew you were right about Riner,” Henry said.
“I am, I am right that he’s not a killer,” Shawn said. “But still, I kind of keep forgetting that Lassiter’s not all wrong about him, either.”
”What do you mean?” Henry asked.
“Cyril’s not a murderer, but he is a thief,” Shawn said. “He’s a con-man. And he’s been conning me this whole time, only telling me what he wants me to know.”
“Then you’d better figure out what it is he’s not telling you,” Henry said.
Shawn gave his father an irritated sideways glance. “I thought you didn’t even want me involved?” he said.
“You’ve already gotten yourself involved whether I want it or not,” Henry snapped, as he pulled to a stop in front of the Psych office. “I’d just as soon you knew what it was you were facing.”
“You still think Cyril might be dangerous?” Shawn asked.
“I think if it’s not him, it’s going to be someone else,” Henry said. “Now, what are we doing here? You need to do more research?”
“No, but Gus threw out all my Red Bull, and I keep a spare case of it here,” Shawn told him, before getting out of the car and heading to the door of the office.
Henry groaned and slammed out of the car behind him. “Shawn!” he snapped. “Don’t you think you’ve had enough of that garbage?”
“I’m not going to stand for that kind of blasphemy,” Shawn said, as he pulled out his keys to unlock the office. “Anyway, I just need one little can, just a little pick-me-up.”
“You sound like an addict,” Henry said disapprovingly. “You used to get like this on a Pixy Stix too.”
“When sugar and caffeine become illegal, you can stage your intervention,” Shawn told him. He entered the office and went straight to the small kitchen at the back. He pulled the case of Red Bull out happily, and then frowned at how light it was. He looked inside. The cans had all been opened and emptied. There was a note sitting on top in Gus’s handwriting.
Got Milk? Because it’s better for you.
“Gus is getting devious,” Shawn said with admiration. “I think after all these years he’s finally catching on.” Then he frowned. “But why did he have to start now? I really needed a Red Bull.”
“You’ll live,” Henry said wryly. He saw the answering machine blinking a ‘1’ on Gus’s desk, and reached out to press it. “You’ve got a message,” he said.
“Shawn.” The voice was breathless and very very female. Henry’s eyebrow raised in question and Shawn frowned as he recognized who it was. “I hope this message gets to you, I looked you up in the phone book and it was the only one I could find. Cyril wants me to do something for him, and I don’t know if I should. Please, Shawn, I need your help. I don’t know who to trust.”
“Who was that?” Henry asked.
Shawn dropped the empty Red Bull and started for the door. “Amelia,” he said.
Henry grabbed him before he could go by. “She sounded scared,” he said. “We’ve got to call the police. Where is she?”
“I can handle this myself,” Shawn said. “Cyril wouldn’t hurt her.”
Henry glared at him. “I know you’re willing to take this kind of chance with your own life, but what about hers?”
Shawn pulled away and crossed his arms. “She’d be at the Hottie Tottie Tavern,” he said, after a moment. Henry picked up the phone to call the station.
The regulars looked as unmoved by the commotion as they had when Shawn had been hauled off by the ambulance. Shawn got out of the car, and his father followed his every move. Shawn was starting to get an eye twitch from his constant close proximity.
He stopped in front of Amelia, ignoring Lassiter for the moment. “Are you okay?” he asked.
She nodded, taking a sip of the water. “Yes, I only saw him for a moment, it really doesn’t require such a fuss.”
“Riner’s dangerous,” Lassiter said. “You did the right thing asking for help.” He glanced at Shawn. “And you did the right thing calling us.”
Shawn saw a flash of blonde hair out of the corner of his eye. Juliet came over, and smiled briefly at Shawn. “It looks like the lock might have been tampered with on the backdoor,” she said. “Amelia, is that how he got in?”
“He didn’t come in,” Amelia said. “I told you, he stopped me on my way in and was just asking if I could give him some money.”
Lassiter frowned, but nodded to Juliet. “Let’s have a look at it, anyway. He might have tried breaking in first.”
Lassiter and Juliet headed off and Amelia bit her lip carefully. Shawn narrowed his eyes. “Cyril didn’t ask you for any money, did he?” he asked.
She shook her head, and leaned past him to look at Henry. “Hi,” she said carefully.
Henry nodded briefly, before returning to scanning the area for any threat.
“Don’t mind him,” Shawn said, gesturing behind him. “That’s just my bodyguard, Biff Tannen. You want to give us a moment alone, Biff?”
“Shawn,” Henry snapped.
“Just stand over there by the car,” Shawn said. “This place is crawling with cops. What do you think is going to happen?”
Henry glared at him but walked back towards the car. “Sorry about that,” Shawn said.
Amelia sighed. “I didn’t mean for all this to happen,” she said. “I didn’t want to get him into trouble, but I wasn’t sure if I could trust him.”
Shawn nodded. “You did the right thing to call me,” he said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t have come alone, but I wasn’t the only one who heard your message.”
Amelia nodded understandingly. “Biff heard it too, huh?”
Shawn nodded. “Yeah, but I think maybe he was right to want to call the police. You look a little shaken up.”
“I’m okay,” she said tiredly. “I think it’s time for a change, though.”
“You’ve decided to quit working here and join Greenpeace in their effort to save the whales?” Shawn asked.
“No,” she said. “I’m still going to work here. The tips are awesome.”
“Mostly I was thinking of cutting my hair short or something,” she said.
“Well, that’s a good idea too,” Shawn said.
She smiled slightly, and pulled the blanket tighter around her. “Did Cyril really kidnap you?” she asked.
“Only technically,” Shawn said. “I don’t think he would have hurt you though. What did he really want?”
“He stopped me when I was coming in,” she said. “He wanted me to get something for him.” She grabbed Shawn by his belt loop and tugged him closer, sticking her hand down his pants again. Shawn frowned as he felt something hard and square get wedged between his waistband and his hip, and Amelia pulled away again, so effortless he doubted anyone had seen a thing.
“That’s what he wanted,” she whispered. “That’s what Cyril wanted me to get for him. I didn’t want to give it to the police, not without knowing what it is.”
Shawn nodded. “I don’t think I want to know where you had that hidden,” he said. “But where did you find it?”
“It was hidden under the stage,” she said. “Lodged behind a loose panel.”
“Spencer!” Lassiter shouted.
Shawn winced, and Amelia leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek. “I’m glad you’re alright,” she said, glancing around to make sure they were still alone. Lassiter was heading in their direction, but still a few feet away. “And I hope Cyril’s okay, too.”
“Spencer,” Lassiter said again, putting a hand on each of his shoulders to usher him away. “A moment, please.”
Shawn waved goodbye to Amelia. “I never pegged you for the jealous type,” Shawn told him. “You have nothing to worry about, Amelia and I are just friends.”
“What?” Lassiter asked. “No, that’s not—”
“I didn’t realize you two were together!” Amelia said, leaning forward out of the car. “That was a totally platonic kind of kiss, I promise! And I’m sorry about the lap dance!”
“Never apologize for the lap dance,” Shawn told her. “You are very talented and Lassiter understands.”
“We’re not dating,” Lassiter snapped.
“We talked about this in therapy, Lassie,” Shawn said. “Denial is not the answer.”
Lassiter grabbed Shawn’s arm and dragged him further away, out of earshot of stripper witnesses or anyone else. Shawn took advantage of the closeness to bump into him, slipping his hand in Lassiter’s jacket and right back out again, picking it without his noticing.
“What are you doing here?” Lassiter demanded. “And why is your father here glaring at me?”
Shawn glanced back towards his father, slipping Lassiter’s phone into his pocket. Henry had his arms crossed and was looking in their direction. “That’s not glaring,” he said. “My father always looks like that.”
Lassiter shook his head. “But why is he here?”
“He’s stalking me,” Shawn said. “I’d file a restraining order, but honestly, I don’t think it’d do a bit of good.”
Lassiter reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Spencer,” he started. “I told you to stay out of this. Guster was supposed to take you home.”
“Hey, I was all for that plan,” Shawn said. “But he drove off without me, so I got stuck with my dad.”
“Well, whatever,” Lassiter said. “What I’m trying to say is that you need to leave. So go.”
“Okay, but only because you asked so nicely,” Shawn said. “First I have a question.”
“Fine,” Lassiter said.
“Cyril used to be a construction worker,” he said. “You wouldn’t happen to know where it was he worked, would you?”
“Here, actually,” Lassiter said. “He was working on some remodeling, they were changing their theme from Tiki Hut to Vegas or something, and I guess they never quite finished after he was arrested. I’d forgotten all about it until we had to come back here to get you.”
“And you didn’t think that worth mentioning?” Shawn demanded.
“You couldn’t just read my mind?” Lassiter asked. “What’s the point of you being psychic if I have to tell you everything anyway?”
“Aha!” Shawn said. “So you admit I’m psychic.”
“No,” Lassiter said. “Any more questions?”
“Yes,” Shawn said. “Do you have any Red Bull?”
Lassiter heaved a sigh and walked away. “Get out of here, Spencer.”
“Why does no one have any Red Bull?” Shawn yelled after him.
“Shawn, come on,” Henry snapped.
Shawn trudged back over to the Cadillac and dropped back down into the passenger seat. “What was that all about?” his father demanded, as he started the car.
“I just wanted to make sure she was alright,” Shawn said.
“I meant with you and Lassiter,” Henry said.
Shawn leaned back and closed his eyes. “Nothing’s going on with me and Lassiter. He just wanted us to leave.”
Shawn kept running everything he knew about this case through his mind. Nothing fit together quite right. He pulled what Amelia had given him out of his waistband. It was a small metal box. There didn’t seem to be a lid. He spun it in his hands. It looked like a solid cube, but it rattled when he shook it.
“What’s that?” Henry asked.
“Tic Tacs,” Shawn said, and put it in his pocket. He sunk back in the seat again and closed his eyes. The next time he opened them the clock read twenty minutes later, and he realized he was heading towards his father’s house. He sat up and frowned out the window. “You’re going the wrong way,” he said.
“Yeah, I’m going to let you stay alone at your apartment with a murderer on the loose,” Henry said.
“Well, good, but if you’re going to do that you’re going the wrong way,” Shawn said.
“You’re coming home with me,” Henry said. “At least until this is over.”
When they stopped at a red light Shawn reached for the door handle, but his father was quicker, and he engaged the child safety locks. Shawn tried the handle a few times, but there wasn’t any give. He sat back in the seat in an irritated huff.
“First stalking, and now kidnapping?” Shawn asked. “I’m telling mom on you.”
Henry snorted. “Yeah, I’d like to see you try to explain this to her, she’d guilt you back into therapy so fast your head would spin.”
“If my head was spinning, then I’d probably need therapy,” Shawn said. “Or possibly an exorcist.”
“You know it’s true,” Henry said.
“Mom knows better than to try and guilt me into therapy,” Shawn said dryly. “The last time she tried I started helping the guy diagnose his other patients.”
Henry shook his head. “At least he didn’t charge us for it,” he said.
“Of course he didn’t. If anything, I should have charged him for my services,” Shawn said. “A ten year old could have done a better job than that quack.”
“You were ten years old,” Henry said.
“Well, there you go,” Shawn said. “You’ve proven my point.”
Henry rolled his eyes as he pulled to a stop in his driveway. “Can you please just humor me this once?” he asked.
“But I use humor on you all the time,” Shawn protested. “You just don’t ever appreciate it properly.”
Henry got out and slammed the door, and Shawn followed him inside to the kitchen just to humor him. He was spinning the small metal box in his hand, as his father moved to the cupboards. “You want something?” he asked.
“Red Bull?” Shawn asked hopefully.
“The closest you’re going to get to that in this house is a rare steak,” Henry said wryly. He frowned as he saw what Shawn was spinning in his hand. “What is that?”
“This? Nothing,” Shawn said, but Henry had already made a grab for it.
“Shawn, where did you get this?” he demanded, looking down at it, spinning it carefully around.
Shawn grabbed it back. “From Amelia,” he said.
Henry crossed his arms. “This is what Cyril wanted her to do, isn’t it?” he demanded. “Get this for him? You should have handed this over to the police!”
“It could be anything!” Shawn said. “You don’t just hand things over without knowing what they are. That’s irresponsible.”
“Shawn—” Henry started.
“This is how I work,” Shawn said. “So you can either help me get it open, or I can leave.”
“Alright, fine, Shawn, have it your way,” Henry snapped. “But as soon as we know what it is, we’re going straight to the police, agreed?”
“Fine, whatever,” Shawn said, looking down at the box. “Do you have something we can use to open it?”
“Yeah, let me check the basement, give me a minute,” Henry said. He opened the basement door and went down the stairs.
Shawn studied the box carefully, holding the top and bottom with two fingers he slide the sides, and they moved with a click. It was a puzzle box. Shawn moved it again, and again, before putting it back one. He kept turning it in all directions, listening for a click, and then it snapped open, unfolding like a flower. He dropped it on the kitchen table and a fairly good-sized blue diamond went rolling across the surface.
He reached and caught it before it could roll off the side, and then turned, about to shout to his father not to bother. Something stopped him from saying anything, and he snuck over to the doorway, leaning over to look down. His father was sorting through boxes, grumbling to himself, and almost without thinking, Shawn grabbed the edge of the door and pushed it shut.
He heard his father’s angry shout, and then turned the lock. A moment later, the knob was spinning from the other side, without any luck. “Shawn!” Henry shouted. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m really sorry about this!” Shawn said through the door. “But I can’t have you following me around all the time, and you always ruin my big reveals!”
Henry pounded on the door. “Shawn! Unlock this door.”
“I won’t be gone long!” Shawn said. “Forty minutes, tops! Sometimes I solve cases even faster than that. I could be back in a half hour if all goes well!”
Shawn pulled out the phone he’d borrowed from Lassiter and went out the front door, dialing Gus and ignoring his father’s threats. “Gus!” he said happily when his friend answered.
“Shawn?” Gus said warily. “How’s it going?”
“Fine, everything’s fine, my dad and I totally worked everything out,” he said. “He actually helped me with a huge break in the case. Can you swing by?”
“Sure,” Gus said. “You’re at your dad’s?”
”Yep, meet me up front,” Shawn said.
“I’ll be right there,” Gus said, before hanging up.
Shawn was sitting on the front step when Gus got there. Gus came around the side of the house, looking wary. There was a half-hearted pounding from his father, and Gus frowned. “What’s that?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Shawn said quickly. “Everything’s fine here. My dad’s taking his nap. You know old people and their naps.”
“Oh,” Gus said. “So you’re not mad at me? I kind of thought you would be.”
“Why would I be mad at you?” Shawn asked.
“You know, for leaving you in the middle of the road,” he said. “I just thought you should talk to your father, or things would only get worse.”
“You were totally right,” Shawn said. “We’ve got everything worked out.”
There was more of the strange thumping noise, and Gus spun in place. “Are you sure you don’t hear anything?” Gus demanded.
“Not a thing,” Shawn said.
Gus frowned, but nodded. He pulled a phone from his jacket pocket and held it out. “I got you a new phone,” he said. “As a kind of peace offering. And also so you’ll stop stealing mine.”
“That was very thoughtful of you, Gus, but I already have Lassiter’s phone, and I don’t really need two,” Shawn said.
“Why do you have Lassiter’s phone, Shawn?” Gus demanded.
“Because I stole it out of his pocket. And do you know who put her name in this phone?” Shawn asked. “Little Miss Dah-Ling. Can you believe that? The nerve. Lassie doesn’t even have my number in here. Well, unless that’s me listed under Pain In The Ass.” Shawn grinned. “Hey, it is me!”
“That’s great, Shawn,” Gus said. “But what does this have to with anything?”
“I just don’t trust her,” Shawn said. “Also, she was mean to me.”
Gus snorted. “Well, she probably won’t be around to bother you much longer,” he said.
Shawn frowned. “Why do you say that?” he asked.
“I’ve been doing a little more advanced Googling. Seems her father died a few weeks back, she sold the Store-It-Yourself before they even held the funeral,” he said. “My guess is she’s going to be heading out.”
“In every interview she ever gave, she said she always planned on getting as far from here as she could,” Gus said.
“Huh,” Shawn said.
“So is this your big break in the case?” Gus asked. “Because it sounds to me like this is just your weird little crush on Lassiter acting up again.”
“Well, I’ve also got this,” Shawn said, and tossed the diamond to Gus.
Gus caught it and stared at it with huge eyes. “Where did you get this, Shawn? This is one of the rarest types of diamond there is!” he shouted. “This looks like the real deal. A genuine natural blue diamond.”
“They can’t be that rare,” Shawn protested. “I saw some of these just a little while ago.”
“What you saw were probably fakes, Shawn,” Gus said, self-importantly. “I seriously doubt there’s more than five of these in Santa Barbara at any given time.”
“I bet you’re wrong about that,” Shawn said, taking the diamond back and sticking it in his pocket. “I bet there’s 700,000 dollars worth.”
“If they’re anything like the size of this one, that would be less than five of them,” Gus said. “Most people go their whole lives without ever laying eyes on a real blue diamond. The majority of them you do see are synthetic.”
“If they’re so rare, why wasn’t this ever mentioned in the papers?” Shawn asked, as he started to walk around the house to Gus’s car.
“There was no reason to give a detailed account of what was stolen to the public,” Gus said, following him. “They probably never released that information to the media. It was also strange they never mentioned the name of the owner. Maybe it was a privacy thing.”
“And no one ever connected it to the Dah-Ling murder anyway,” Shawn said thoughtfully.
“Except you,” Gus said. “Are you sure about that, by the way?”
“Like 97%,” Shawn said. “And if I’m right, then I know who our killer is.”
“Who?” Gus demanded.
“It’s—” Shawn broke off at a girly scream from Gus, and spun around just in time to see his foot get pulled out from under him so that he did a belly flop onto the grass. Shawn followed the hand wrapped around Gus’s ankle to the little basement window at the bottom edge of the house, and looked down to see half his father’s face.
“Oh my god!” Gus shouted. “It’s got me! It’s got me! It’s Pennywise, isn’t it? I told you It was real!”
“Calm down, Gus,” Shawn said. “It’s just my dad. The clowns haven’t gotten you yet.”
“Shawn!” his father snapped. “You get back in here and open this door right now!”
“Mr. Spencer?” Gus said, confused. He tried to look behind him, but the hand around his ankle was locked in a death grip.
Shawn reached down to pick up the car keys that had flown out of Gus’s hand, before quickly backing out of reach. “Sorry, Gus, looks like I’m going to have to leave you behind.”
“Shawn, don’t you dare!” Gus shouted, trying to hold onto the grass as Henry tugged on his foot.
“Shawn!” Henry shouted. “You get your ass back here!”
“But I solved the case, there’s no time to waste!” Shawn told them. “Stay strong, Gus!”
“Shawn!” Gus shouted. “Shawn, quit messing around! Shawn!”
Shawn hopped into the Echo and went screeching out of the driveway, pulling onto the road and gunning it for the station. He only felt slightly bad for the chaos he had left behind him, considering the circumstances.
Because Gus deserved it for stranding him with his father in the first place, and his father deserved it for walking into a room that locked from the outside while Shawn was on the other side of it. That was just asking for it.
Henry had probably wanted Shawn to lock him in the basement.
“Now really isn’t a good time, Shawn,” Juliet said, glancing over at him apologetically. She frowned as a patrolman walked by with riot gear. “Did Lassiter tell you to get that? I told him—”
Shawn watched her run off and fought off a pout. “But you didn’t guess what!” he called after her.
“Spencer!” Lassiter shouted. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Hey, Lassie!” Shawn said, breaking out into a smile and deciding to start again. “Guess what?”
“You were just leaving?” Lassiter asked.
“No, try again,” Shawn said.
“Now is not a good time, Spencer,” Lassiter said. The patrolman ran up to Lassiter with a clipboard, and Lassiter absentmindedly scribbled down his name as he frowned at the man. “Where’s your riot gear?”
“Detective O’Hara said—”
“People!” Lassiter shouted. “Get your act together, we’ve got to be out of here five minutes ago!”
“My time machine’s out back, if that’ll help,” Shawn said. “You could even leave ten minutes ago if you had to.”
Lassiter ignored him, pushing past him towards the supply room. “If you want something done right,” he muttered.
“Wait, I know this one!” Shawn said, following on his heels. “You do it yourself, right? I’ve found that this works especially well for me.”
As he followed Lassiter into the room, Shawn’s eyes widened as he looked at the walls and walls of riot gear. Lassiter was pulling on a bulletproof vest and Shawn put on one of the helmets. He pressed down the visor. “Can I have this?” he asked. “This is way cooler than mine.”
Lassiter reached over and grabbed it off his head. “No, you can’t have it,” he snapped. “What are you doing here? We’re a little busy, if you hadn’t noticed.”
“I solved the case,” Shawn said. “You’re all kind of stealing my thunder, though. You know the High-Land Jewel Heist?”
”Sure,” Lassiter said. “What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Blue diamonds were taken, right?” he said. “Natural ones. The hard to get kind.”
“Yeah, one large five carat one, about a dozen smaller ones. All of them very rare, and very expensive,” Lassiter said. “But how did you find that out? That was never released because of what was going on with the owner.”
“What was going on with the owner?” Shawn asked. He picked up a rubber bullet gun. “How about this? Can I have this?”
Lassiter grabbed it out of his hands. “The ‘owner’ was a criminal kingpin, Max Diaz, and he had the diamonds illegally. As soon as we started to investigate the robbery, we got lucky and realized we had more than enough evidence to put him away instead.”
Shawn frowned. That explained why he hadn’t seen any further coverage about the actual High-Land robbery, everyone had been preoccupied with taking down the mob boss that had owned the diamonds. “So you never caught them?”
“No, we never caught them, or recovered the diamonds,” Lassiter said. “What is this about? You’re looking into cold cases now?” Lassiter pushed back out of the room, and Shawn followed him again, reluctantly leaving all those shiny toys behind.
“Maybe I am,” Shawn said. “What I want to know is, why did you stop looking in the first place?”
“Some cases go unsolved, Spencer. There was no pressure for us to solve this case, no owner trying to get their diamonds back. Diaz was more concerned with his 25-to-life sentence, and we had more important things to worry about, too.”
“Lassiter!” Juliet called. “Come on, we’ve got confirmation, we’re needed on site.”
“Stay here, Spencer,” Lassiter said, fastening his gun into his holster and starting off towards Juliet.
“What? You can’t leave now,” Shawn protested. “I solved the case! I found out who really killed Mark Lyle!”
“Good for you, you’ve come to your senses, then?” Lassiter asked. “Because we were just about to pick him up.”
“What? Wait, who are you talking about?” Shawn asked.
“Cyril Riner,” Lassiter said. “We’ve got him pinned down at a motel near Summerland. We’re going to pick him up now.”
“But I’m not talking about Cyril! Cyril didn’t kill anyone,” Shawn protested. “I know who did!”
“Okay, fine then, Spencer, who is it?” Lassiter demanded. “Who’s the ‘real’ killer?”
“Well, I can’t just tell you,” Shawn said. “I have to create an elaborate set up and bring everyone together before announcing it, Diagnosis Murder style.”
“I don’t have time for this,” Lassiter snapped, starting to leave.
Shawn jumped up, starting to follow him. “But Lassie!”
Lassiter pointed at Buzz. “McNab, your job is to keep Spencer here.”
“Lassie!” Shawn shouted again. Buzz gently grabbed his arm to hold him back.
Lassiter turned back around, getting right in Shawn's face. “You are a civilian, Spencer, and you've been running free too long. I'm through—got it? No more tagging along on busts, no more facing down armed suspects. You go to crime scenes escorted, that's it.”
“It was the Chief's idea,” he said. “We didn’t want to deal with the paperwork if you finally succeeded in getting yourself killed.”
“You can’t hold me here,” Shawn said.
“Try me, Spencer,” Lassiter snapped.
“He’s free to leave,” Vick said, walking over to join them. “But, Mr. Spencer, let me be clear, if you go anywhere near that motel—”
“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Shawn told her. “Because you’re all going after the wrong guy.” Shawn pulled out of Buzz’s grip and pushed past Lassiter.
“Mister Spencer, wait just a moment!” Vick snapped. She frowned, and then turned to Buzz. “McNab, I want you to go with him. Use your judgment. Call for back up if you need to.”
“Yes, Chief,” McNab said, before following Shawn as he pushed out the doors.
Lassiter had to go. There was no telling how long the stand off might last without him there. Riner promised to come peacefully if he showed, so he was going. He’d go even if he hadn’t, and take him down by force if necessary.
He just wished he could forget Spencer’s parting words. You’re all going after the wrong guy. He just wished Spencer wasn’t always right.
What was he supposed to do? Give up a sure thing on the rantings and say so of someone with no qualifications? With no basis for them at all? If Spencer had only given him something, evidence, a clue, anything.
If only he’d stop with that damn act.
But Lassiter had a job to do, and McNab would keep an eye on Spencer.
“Are you okay, Lassiter?” Juliet asked.
“Fine,” he said tightly. “Let’s just do this.”
Lassiter pulled to a stop in front of the motel. Lights were flashing, and men were pouring out of their vehicles with their riot gear. Juliet sighed. “He said he’s going to surrender,” she reminded him.
“Yeah, you trust him?” Lassiter asked.
“Shawn does,” Juliet said. “And I do trust Shawn.”
“I don’t trust either of them,” Lassiter said, before moving away to join the lead on scene.
“You Detective Lassiter?” the man asked, holding out his hand. The name on his vest said Michaels. “Guy’s been asking for you.”
“Where is he?” Lassiter asked.
Michaels nodded towards the slightly opened door to motel reception. “Holed up in there. Says he’s got a hostage.”
Lassiter narrowed his eyes at the door. Juliet ran up to him and held out a megaphone. “You want to talk to him and tell him to come out?” she asked. “Remember to ask nicely. It never hurts to be polite.”
Lassiter ignored the megaphone and stepped forward. “Cyril Riner!” he shouted.
“Lassiter?” Cyril called.
“I’m here,” he said. “You ready to put a stop to this?”
Cyril tossed his gun out the door. Michaels reached forward and quickly grabbed it up. Cyril stepped out of the doorway slowly, holding up his hands. “There’s no bullets in this gun,” Michaels said bemusedly.
“Where’s your hostage?” Lassiter demanded, as he stepped forward to pull Cyril’s hands behind his back and cuff him.
Cyril grinned. “I don’t have a hostage. I let the receptionist go out the back like ten minutes ago.”
“And Reed-Fry? Where is he?” Lassiter demanded.
“I don’t know anyone with that name,” Cyril said.
Lassiter snapped the cuffs together. “Cyril Riner, you are under arrest. Again. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. You got all that?” he asked. “You should have them memorized by this point, right?”
“You don't understand,” Cyril protested. “Look, just look in my pocket.”
“Excuse me?” Lassiter demanded.
“There's a note, in my shirt pocket,” Cyril said.
Lassiter frowned, but pulled it out. He unfolded it, and recognized the handwriting immediately as Shawn's. It said: Hi Lassie! You've got the wrong guy. Meet me at the Dah-Ling Store-It-Yourself A.S.A.P. Then there was a smiley face. Lassiter glared at the note. “When did he give you this?” he demanded.
“I don't know. I found it in my glove box,” Cyril said. “Look what it says on the back.”
Lassiter turned it over. It said: Cyril, give this to Lassiter when he arrests you.
Cyril gave a disbelieving laugh. “I was sure you wouldn't catch me, I didn't expect to give it to you. I should have known better. He really is psychic, isn't he?”
Lassiter shook his head. “No, he's not,” he snapped. “That's the part that's scary.” Lassiter folded the note again and put it in his own jacket pocket.
“Does this mean you finally believe me?” Cyril asked.
Lassiter shoved Cyril at Juliet. “This means I believe him.”
“Lassiter?” Juliet asked.
“Take him to the station and book him,” Lassiter said.
“What about you?” Juliet demanded.
”I'm going to the Store-It-Yourself,” Lassiter snapped. “Much as I hate to admit it, Spencer's never been wrong yet, and if he's right, then he's just stupid enough to be meeting with a killer right now.”
Lassiter reached for his phone to call McNab as he started back towards his car, but it wasn’t in his jacket. He paused for just a moment, pressing his eyes shut, taking a deep breath.
“I’m gonna kill Spencer,” he said.
“We could have taken my car,” Buzz said. “It’s got the sirens and everything.”
Shawn patted the Echo fondly. “The Psych-Mobile would have felt left out, and it’s kind of Gus’s proxy, I had to bring it,” he said.
“Where is Gus?” he asked.
“The creature in the basement got him,” Shawn said. “It’s very sad, but I think it teaches us all a lesson. You should always watch where you’re walking, and you should never abandon a friend in the middle of the road, am I right?”
“Huh?” Buzz asked. “Wait, so Gus is where?”
“Gus was busy,” Shawn said, sugar-coating it for him. “So he let me borrow his car so I could go solve the murder.”
“Oh,” Buzz said. He looked out the window and frowned as Shawn pulled them to a stop. “But what are we doing here?”
Shawn got out of the car. The Dah-Ling Store-It-Yourself’s neon sign was just flickering to life as the sun was starting to go down. “Solving crime,” Shawn said. “You’re a very lucky man, Buzz. Since you’re the only one who bothered to show up to see me work my magic, I say this bust should belong to you. Of course, if Lassiter gets the message I left for him, he might be showing up too. And you know what a glory hound he is, so good luck with that.”
“What bust?” Buzz asked. “I thought Riner was at the motel?”
“Right, and that’s going to be very embarrassing for everyone involved when he’s cleared of all charges,” Shawn said. “We, on the other hand, get to be right.”
Buzz was wary as he followed Shawn to the gate. “Are you sure about this, Shawn?”
“Yep,” Shawn said. “Our real murderer is here.”
The lock on the gate was still unlatched, so Shawn swung it open and walked inside, turning right to head towards the aisle that held lot number thirty-six.
“How can you be sure?” Buzz asked. “Did you have a vision?”
“Actually, I sent them a text message and told them to come here,” Shawn said, as though it was obvious.
“And you think they'll show?” he asked incredulously.
“Yep. I used Lassiter's phone to do it,” Shawn explained. “And our murderer has a big huge crush on him. Sad really. I almost feel bad. Lassiter is very hard to resist.”
Buzz frowned. “Right. But. Wait, what?”
“What are you doing here?” Buzz and Shawn turned at the sweet voice, and Ava Dah-Ling came marching down the row of storage rooms. “You can't be here,” she said. “This is private property.”
“Yes, but not yours,” Shawn said, stepping forward. “You sold this place before your father was even in the ground.”
Ava glared at him. “You don't scare me, psychic,” she said scathingly. “You know nothing. Where is Carlton? He asked me to meet him here.”
“Right here,” Lassiter said, coming in from behind her. He stayed at the other side of the aisle, blocking the only other way out, while Shawn and Buzz stood at the opposite side. He glanced over at Shawn. “Spencer?”
“You got my note!” Shawn said happily. “I was hoping that would be timed right. The spirits aren't always punctual, you know.”
“I admit I was intrigued,” Lassiter said. “Want to tell me why we're here?”
“I thought that was obvious," Shawn said, and pointed at Ava. “That's your killer.”
“I thought you were insisting that Lyle was the killer?” Lassiter demanded.
“He pulled the trigger, but he was just a hired gun. She's the one that hired him,” Shawn said. “She's also the one that killed him.”
“That's ridiculous,” Ava said, and glared at him. “You'd better go back and consult your crystal ball, mystic.”
Shawn grinned at her. “Oh, I don't think so, I think I've got this crystal, already,” Shawn said, and brought a hand to his head, closing his eyes. “You hated this place. You hated working here. Then you met Mark Lyle. He was a common thug, but he was working with some pretty professional thieves. And they were storing all their stolen goods in lot number thirty-six.”
Shawn walked over to storage room, running a hand across the number on the door. “You seduced him, and got him to tell you what was inside, then you convinced him to steal it for you,” he said. “But when that guard showed up he screwed up. You didn’t catch Cyril in the act. You were watching the whole thing, and you only stepped in after Lyle got away, holding Cyril there to be the fall guy. It was a pretty perfect plan, actually. Cyril’s caught red handed, the goods in storage are never reported stolen, because they’d been stolen already, and so no one even really looked for that second guy Cyril kept telling everyone about, he got away clean. And you? Well, you were a hero. You were the Dah-Ling Darling. No one even dreamed of suspecting you.”
Ava tilted her head back. “That's a nice story, you have a big imagination. I'd enjoy watching you get laughed out of court with your psychic testimony, but we both know you don't have enough to even warrant a hearing. I've done nothing.”
“But you have,” Shawn said, “and you made one mistake. You're clever, I'll give you that, but after you stole those diamonds you had to hide them somewhere.”
Her eyes narrowed. “All I have in my account is the money I got from selling this place, please, feel free to check, it's all you'll find.”
“Yeah,” Shawn said. “You’ve been very careful about that. In fact, you’ve yet to make a cent from what you’ve stolen, because you’ve been biding your time, waiting for your father to die so you could sell this place and leave it behind.”
Ava stepped forward angrily. “I loved my father.”
“I’m sure you did,” Shawn said. “Otherwise he couldn’t have kept you here all this time. He died last week, isn’t that right? I bet if we checked, your apartment would be all packed.”
“It isn’t against the law to move away,” Ava said.
“No, but that’s about the only thing you’ve done lately that isn’t,” Shawn said. “And you’re wearing all the proof we need to prove it, right there on your wrist.”
Ava’s eyes went wide, and for the first time since Shawn started talking, she looked scared. She took a step back, covering her diamond bracelet with her hand. “This was a gift,” she protested.
“Nice gift,” Shawn said. “That’s worth, what? Half a million? And the thing about diamonds is they might as well have fingerprints. Did you know jewelers can tell every single one of them apart? I bet the jewelers over at High-Land would love to get a look at those. I noticed earlier that every other diamond on that bracelet is blue.”
Ava reached into her purse, stepping forward as she pulled out a gun to aim it straight at Shawn. “You’ve ruined everything, you meddlesome tea-leaf reader!”
Shawn stared down the barrel of the gun until he was cross-eyed. “I’ll have you know I drink coffee, not tea, and in any case I’ve never read it,” he told her.
“Spencer,” Lassiter growled in warning. Shawn could see Lassiter and Buzz closing in from both sides, and both of them had pulled out their guns. Shawn returned his focus to Ava.
“And I bet that’s the gun you used to kill Lyle, too. You’re not doing anything for your case,” he said. “Now we’ve got you dead to rights.”
“The only thing that’s going to be dead is you,” Ava said.
Shawn watched her carefully, narrowing his eyes as he noted her increased pressure on the trigger. He was searching for the right words to stop her when he was thrown clear, Lassiter barreling right past him and into Ava, tackling her to the ground. Shawn heard the gunshot go off and saw, as if in slow motion, the bloody tear appear on Lassiter’s left sleeve.
Shawn stumbled back to his feet. “Lassie!”
Lassiter kicked Ava’s gun away and holstered his own, dragging her arms behind her back. “McNab!” Lassiter snapped. “Keep Spencer back and toss me your spare cuffs. I already used mine on Riner.”
Buzz grabbed Shawn by the back of the shirt with one hand, and tossed Lassiter the cuffs. Shawn easily pried his fingers off. “Have you been taking manhandling lessons from Lassiter?” he asked. “I’m sorry to say you have a long way to go.”
Then he slipped straight past him and dropped down by Lassiter’s side. “You’re bleeding,” he gasped. “You’ve been shot! And you just totally saved my life! Maybe you really are Gerard. Or Mahone. I can’t decide. You don’t keep any Midazolam in your pen, do you?”
Lassiter cuffed Ava, and then carefully unlatched the diamond bracelet from her wrist to drop it in his coat pocket. He stood, pulling her to her feet. She glared haughtily at Shawn. “This isn’t over, mystic,” she said. “I’m—”
“Do you mind?” Shawn asked. “We’re in the middle of a conversation here.”
“I’m fine, Spencer,” Lassiter said, and started dragging Ava towards his car. He shoved her into the back of the car and slammed the door, before spinning around to confront him. “You, on the other hand, are in a lot of trouble.”
Shawn took an uncertain step back. “For doing your job for you?” Shawn asked. “Really I think if anything I deserve a nice little thank you card, maybe a Pineapple gift basket.”
“McNab,” Lassiter shouted. Buzz jumped to attention. “Keep an eye on Dah-Ling. Spencer and I need to have a word.”
“If we’re only going to have one of them, I don’t see why we can’t do it right here,” Shawn protested, as Lassiter dragged him to the next row of storage rooms and out of sight.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Lassiter snapped, pushing Shawn against the wall. “Do you have any idea what could have happened if I hadn’t been here? You could be dead, and if not you, then McNab.”
“I tried to tell you—” Shawn protested.
“It’s not hard to do, you just say, Ava did it, she’s the killer,” Lassiter snapped.
“I did say that, if not in so many words, but no one was interested!” Shawn protested. “And it’s not as though you would have believed me! If I hadn’t done it this way she would have had time to cover her tracks.”
“You saw the diamonds on her bracelet, right? That’s how you figured it out?” Lassiter demanded. “You could have told me that.”
“You should really get your arm looked at,” Shawn said, hesitantly reaching out for it, but pulling away before he got there. “Your shirt’s all bloody.”
Lassiter shook his head, and started to head back to the car. “We’re going to the station,” he told him. “My arm’s fine.”
“You’re mad at me,” Shawn said incredulously, as he darted after him. “Why? I only did what I always do.”
”Which is exactly the problem, Spencer,” Lassiter said. “McNab, make sure Spencer gets to the station, I’m taking Ava in.”
“You probably shouldn’t be driving, you’ve just been shot,” Shawn protested. “You should take Buzz with you.”
Lassiter’s only answer was to slam the door and drive off. Buzz bit his lip uncertainly. “Well, I guess I’m going with you,” Buzz said.
The station was in even more upheaval than it had been earlier. Shawn saw Juliet leading a now sobbing Ava Dah-Ling towards the cells. Shawn was pretty sure she was one of those people who could cry on cue, and he suspected she was going to have a field day with her jury. He spotted Lassiter on the other side of the room, sitting on the edge of his desk, speaking with Cyril Riner, who appeared to be handcuffed to a chair. Shawn started towards them.
“Cyril!” he said happily.
Cyril smiled. “Hey, Shawn,” he said. “I hear you’ve been busy.”
Shawn frowned at the handcuffs. “Why is he handcuffed?” he asked. “You know he’s innocent now, right?”
“There’s still a lot he has to answer for,” Lassiter said stiffly, before standing. He grabbed Shawn and took him over to Juliet’s desk, before sitting him down on it. “And that goes for you too.”
Shawn slid Juliet’s chair closer with his foot, and then unbalanced Lassiter so he fell into it. Shawn could manhandle too, if the situation required it. He ignored Lassiter’s sound of protest and opened the med kit. “You really should be getting this checked out,” he said. “But since I know you won’t—”
“You’re trying to distract me,” Lassiter said. “It’s not going to work.”
“You got shot,” Shawn said. “Normal people would be distracted by that without any help from me.”
Shawn grabbed Lassiter’s torn sleeve and ripped it the rest of the way off. “Hey!” Lassiter snapped.
“It was ruined anyway,” Shawn told him. “Besides, this is a good look for you. You’re like the urban Rambo. I’m just surprised Jules hasn’t already taken care of this.”
“She doesn’t know yet,” Lassiter said. “She gets kind of worked up when people get shot. I sent her off to book Ava Dah-Ling and lock the bracelet up in evidence.”
Shawn winced as he examined the cut. It was about an inch across, and half an inch or so deep. He’d had worse cuts from getting thrown out of a moving truck, but still, it wasn’t pretty. He ran an antiseptic wipe across it and then pulled out the gauze. “You should get stitches, if you don’t it’s probably going to scar,” Shawn told him. “I know it would look very butch, but health first.”
“We need to talk about what happened, Spencer,” Lassiter said.
“Okay,” Shawn said easily. “Well, for my part I thought you were really awesome. You’re totally my hero now. I think I’m going to have Shawn Hearts Lassie embroidered on all my shirts.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Lassiter said.
“I know what you meant,” Shawn said, taping the gauze at the ends and then pulling his hands back. He restlessly got to his feet, and glanced around the station. He could see Juliet coming back up the steps by the entryway, which meant both the evidence and Ava were safely locked away. Cyril was spinning absentmindedly in the chair, his wrist still attached to the arm on one side, a water guy with a nametag that said “Ed” was refilling the water-cooler.
“Spencer,” Lassiter snapped, bringing Shawn’s attention back to him. “You shouldn’t have done this.”
“Is this because I borrowed your phone?” Shawn asked, pulling it out of his pocket to set it on Juliet’s desk. “Because that was an accident. I thought it was mine.”
“This is about you running off again without giving everyone the facts,” Lassiter snapped.
“You’re feeling guilty,” Shawn said, after a moment. “That you didn’t believe me, right? Don’t worry, Lassie. I’m like the boy who cried wolf. You know, if there actually was a wolf every time, but everyone kept thinking he was lying anyway.” Shawn paused thoughtfully. “Actually, it’s not really like that story at all.”
“This is not me feeling guilty, Spencer,” Lassiter said. “This is me mad. And you are lying to me.”
“I was right all along,” Shawn protested. “Cyril didn’t kill anyone, but you don’t ever take my word for anything.”
“How did you know that he was innocent?” Lassiter asked quietly. “I spent hours with this guy before the trial. I went through his life with a fine-tooth comb. His work at the Hottie Tottie, any possible connections to his former jobs, the people he hung out with. So how did you spend a couple hours with him, as his hostage, and just know?”
“I’m psychic,” Shawn said. “I only had to—”
“And then you wonder why I won’t believe you,” Lassiter interrupted.
Shawn opened his mouth to protest and paused. He titled his head and stepped past Lassiter. There was an empty water-cooler water tank sitting on a desk a few feet away. “Don’t they take those with them?” he asked vaguely. “To recycle?”
“Who?” Lassiter demanded.
“The water guy, the guy who refills the cooler,” Shawn said.
“We don’t have a water guy, we refill it ourselves,” Lassiter said. “Stop trying to avoid the subject.”
Shawn spun back around. The chair by Lassiter’s desk was empty, the unlatched handcuff hanging loosely off the arm. He looked around for Ed, but he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Shawn frowned, and stepped towards Lassiter’s desk. “Uh, Lassiter?” he said. “I think Cyril might have left again.”
“What do you mean he left? I handcuffed—” Lassiter broke off, rushing to his desk. “Where’s Cyril Riner?” he demanded. Everyone turned to look at him, but no one seemed to know. “How does a convicted felon walk out of a police station, for god’s sake!”
“But I thought he was innocent,” Buzz protested. “Miss Dah-Ling is still here. We put her in the cell downstairs.”
Juliet was frowning as she joined them. “I didn’t see him,” she said.
Shawn closed his eyes and called up a picture of the water guy. His nametag said ‘Ed,’ and the company name was ‘Ferry Glen.’ “The water guy!” Shawn said. “It was Fred Greenly!”
“Who’s Fred Greenly?” Lassiter demanded.
“Glen Reed-Fry,” Shawn said. “Also, Ed of Ferry Glen.”
“What?” Lassiter asked. “How do you know?”
“Guy’s got a thing for anagrams,” Shawn said.
Juliet bit her lip. “Well, this isn’t so bad, right? Riner is innocent,” she said. “You know they’re going to grant him immunity for the rest of the charges considering he was falsely convicted of murder. So he hasn’t really escaped again. Exactly.”
“Yes, he has,” Lassiter snapped. “O’Hara, I want you to get me road blocks, every way out of town. Let them know Riner’s on the loose.”
“And probably not empty-handed,” Shawn said after a moment.
“What?” Lassiter demanded.
“You might want to check the evidence locker,” he said.
Lassiter cursed and rushed past him, and Juliet and Shawn followed him. He unlocked the evidence room door and Juliet walked past him to where she had filed away the bracelet. She pulled the box down and set it on the table. The gun was there, in its evidence bag, the seal unbroken.
But instead of the diamond bracelet, there was a Red Bull with a red ribbon tied around it, a note slipped beneath with Shawn’s name written along the side. Lassiter pulled it out and spread it on the table in front of them.
Thought you might need this, it said, but it wasn’t signed.
Cyril was too smart for that. The handwriting probably wasn’t even his.
“Son of a bitch,” Lassiter shouted. “He got away with all of it.”
Shawn took a deep breath. “Well, if it helps at all, it wasn’t all of it,” he said, and he pulled out the blue diamond Amelia had given him from his pocket. He dropped it into the slack-jawed detective’s hand. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go rescue Gus and get my dad out of the basement.”
Shawn went out the door, and returned a moment later, grabbing the Red Bull. “I’ll just take this,” he said.
“That’s evidence, Spencer!” Lassiter shouted after him.
Shawn cautiously made his approach. “I see you still have all your limbs,” he said, in greeting.
Gus held out his hand. “Keys,” he said.
Shawn dropped Gus’s keys into his hand. “You know you totally deserved it, right?” Shawn asked.
“I’m not mad, Shawn,” Gus said. “You want to know why I’m not mad?”
“Actually, I kind of want a Pixy Stix,” Shawn said.
Gus ignored that. “I’m not mad because your father’s going to kill you, and I’d hate for our last conversation to be in anger. So I forgive you.”
“That’s big of you,” Shawn said. “I guess that means you let him out?”
“Yes, Shawn,” Gus said. “Because unlike you, I do not lock people in basements.” Gus finished off another Pixy Stix. “Also Mr. Spencer promised to give me these.”
Shawn sighed and walked past Gus up the steps. He pushed the door open to find his father pacing the kitchen, on the phone. He hung up the moment he saw Shawn, and then let out a kind of disbelieving laugh, like he still couldn’t believe what Shawn had done.
Shawn thought that Henry would have stopped being surprised by him years ago.
“Gus thinks you’re going to kill me,” Shawn said as he shut the door behind him. “I’m pretty sure he’s out there right now trying to get a sugar high so he can write my eulogy or something.”
Henry crossed his arms. “Honestly, Shawn, I don’t even know what to do with you anymore.”
“I solved the case,” Shawn said hesitantly. “I was right that Cyril wasn’t the killer.”
“Yeah, I heard,” Henry said. “I also heard you almost got killed, and that your buddy Cyril disappeared with all the evidence.”
“Not all the evidence, only the evidence with high monetary value,” Shawn said. “We’ve still got the gun, and anyway Ava Dah-Ling practically confessed.”
Henry turned away with a sigh. “I heard something else, too,” he said. “Lassiter saved your life.”
“Yeah,” Shawn said. “I think I’m going to have to buy him a smoothie or something.”
“It was smart to have him go with you,” Henry said. “Maybe you are getting the hang of this after all.”
Shawn didn’t dare tell his father that the chances of Lassiter actually getting the note he’d left with Cyril and showing up at the right time had probably been something like 15%. No reason to shatter the illusion if Henry thought he’d finally done something right. “Yeah, Lassiter’s pretty good at what he does.”
“You could learn a lot from him,” Henry continued.
“I’m learning all the time,” Shawn said.
“I—” Henry paused, tapping a finger on the edge of the kitchen table. “I respect that you’re not giving this up, the way you—well, the way you have before. I just want you to be more careful. And if you ever lock me in the basement again, I swear to God, Shawn, I’ll—”
“You know I don’t like to repeat myself,” Shawn said. “Next time I was thinking of locking you in the attic. Maybe getting you a dress and a rocking chair.”
“Cute,” Henry said. “I’m trying to talk seriously, here, Shawn.”
“Look, it all worked out,” Shawn said. “The bad guy—bad girl—is in jail, and no else was hurt.”
“This time,” Henry snapped.
“Well, yeah, dad, this time,” Shawn said. “Contrary to what I like to tell people, I can’t actually predict the future.”
Henry just shook his head, pulling something out of the cupboard before tossing it to Shawn. “I want you to have that.”
Shawn tilted the large canister to read it. “Pepper spray? Really? What is this, the industrial size version?”
“Just take it, Shawn,” Henry snapped. “It’ll make me feel better.”
“Okay,” Shawn said, putting in his jacket. “I’ll put it on a key chain. Or maybe use it for weight-lifting, what is this thing, eighty pounds?”
“Shawn,” Henry said tiredly. “Just take it, okay?”
“Yeah,” Shawn said. “I’ll keep it at the office. Gus gets scared there at night, and this is definitely a step up from threatening people with dish soap.”
“Good,” Henry said. “Okay. Yeah. Keep it there.”
“I should probably be going,” Shawn said, turning around.
“Shawn,” Henry said. “You’d better be here on Saturday to clean my basement. I want it spotless.”
“Saturday? I’m actually—”
“You don’t want me to come find you,” Henry said.
“Don’t be so sure you can take me,” Shawn said. “I’ve got the super-sized mace.”
“Saturday,” Henry repeated slowly.
Shawn sighed. “Yeah, that’s fair,” he said, opening the door.
“And Shawn? It’s not that I’m not proud of you,” Henry said quietly.
Shawn paused for a moment, smiling where his father couldn’t see it, before shutting the door behind him, because coming from his father that was almost as good as saying that he was.
Gus was still on the porch, sucking down what looked to be his tenth Pixy Six. Shawn sat down beside him. “Still alive, huh?” Gus asked, and then cautiously offered a Pixy Stix.
Shawn took it and nodded. “He’s going to make me clean his basement instead of killing me,” Shawn said. “I guess I’m grateful.”
“Need a ride home?” Gus asked, after a moment.
Shawn spun the Pixy Stix in his hand. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s probably about time I got some sleep.”
Shawn turned around and there was a disposable phone sitting on his coffee table, with a note propped up beside it: Answer me, it said.
Shawn picked it up and hit talk. “Cyril?” he said.
“Hey, Shawn,” Cyril said. “I didn’t get a chance to say thank you.”
“For what, exactly?” Shawn asked. “For clearing your name or for practically delivering those diamonds into your hands?”
“It wasn’t like that,” Cyril started.
“No, of course not,” Shawn said. “I know what really happened.”
“You do?” Cyril asked.
“You weren’t there to help Lyle with the robbery,” Shawn said. “You were there to stop him from ripping you off. You’re the one that pulled off the original robbery. That little band of jewel thieves you were talking about, the ones Lyle used to work for, that was you and Fred Greenly. You were always good with the planning. It only took you two years to plan your way out of a maximum-security prison. That’s almost as good as Michael Scofield.”
“How long have you known?” Cyril asked.
“I’m psychic, I’ve known it all along,” Shawn said.
Cyril laughed. “And yet you haven’t told anyone?”
“You’re asking me? What about you? Why didn’t you tell anyone?” Shawn demanded.
“Do you think the cops would have been sympathetic if I tried to explain? If I’d said, oh no, officer, I wasn’t trying to rob this Store-It-Yourself, because actually what I’ve done is rob 700,000 in diamonds a couple of nights ago. But hey, this rented storage space, that part’s totally legit.”
“I see your point,” Shawn said.
“And it wouldn’t have done anything to prove me innocent,” Cyril said. “It would have just made my story that much harder to believe.”
“But you were using me,” Shawn said. “You didn’t stick around to clear your name. You wanted to find the diamonds.”
“Of course I was using you,” Cyril said. “I took you hostage at gunpoint. I thought you were psychic?” He sighed. “But for the record, I wanted to do both. And anyway, you got away with one of them, too, didn’t you? I know Amelia gave it to you. I should never have asked her to get it, but Lassiter had the place under surveillance and I couldn’t get in through the back, so I was desperate.”
“You were the one that hid it there, weren’t you?” Shawn asked. “You didn’t trust Lyle, and so one day when you working there you hid it in the stage. Lyle wasn’t at that place all the time looking at the girls, he was looking for the diamond.”
“Yes. That was my fault. I was going to go back and get the diamond after I left you in the truck, but Clavor was outside, and you know what happened from there,” Cyril said. “I underestimated him. I had no idea he knew I’d hidden it somewhere in the Tavern. I thought he would have been long gone by now with what he had found in the Store-It-Yourself.”
“But Ava had those,” Shawn said. “And she was doing everything she could to keep Lyle dangling, probably stringing him along all this time with stories about what their lives would be like once her father was out of the picture. How they were going to live the big life.”
“And what about you? What are you going to do with yours?” Cyril asked.
“It was never mine,” Shawn said. “I already gave it to the police.”
“Weren’t you even tempted?” Cyril asked after a moment. “Do you have any idea how much it’s really worth?”
“I guess we all put different values on things,” Shawn said. “I certainly didn’t realize that they meant this much to you.”
“You telling me you didn’t see this coming then?” Cyril asked. “I spent two years in that hellhole. I think I’m allowed a little recompense.”
“I thought you wanted your life back?” Shawn asked.
“What life?” Cyril asked. “I wanted to clear my name, sure. But I never said I wasn’t a thief.”
“No, I guess you didn’t,” Shawn admitted.
“This is who I am,” Cyril said. “I’m sorry if it makes you think less of me.”
“As far as my former kidnappers go, you’re still way ahead in the game,” Shawn said. “Have a good life, Cyril.”
“You too,” Cyril said. “And say goodbye to Lassiter for me.”
“It’s probably best for both of us if he never knows this conversation took place,” Shawn said. “I’d hate to have to tell him where you’re going.”
There was a beat of silence on the other end of the line. “You’re bluffing,” he said.
Shawn closed his eyes and pictured that gorgeous mountain shot, framed in a little five inch by five inch square frame on Cyril’s keys. He knew exactly where he’d be.
“Enjoy Nepal,” Shawn said sweetly. “I hear the view from Everest is breathtaking.”
Shawn ended the call before Cyril could answer, but not before he heard him laugh.
Slightly Later in 2009
(i.e. three hours or thereabouts)
“Well, our very own psychic private eye has done it again,” Mary Merryweather was saying, with entirely unfounded pride considering her own stance on the matter only the day before. “He made his statement proclaiming Cyril Riner’s innocence early this morning, before the police would even admit to having doubts. Spencer’s prediction had been met with much censure and ridicule.”
“Well, it looks like Spencer’s the one laughing now, Mary,” Mark Bender said cheerfully. “Cyril Riner was cleared of all charges just moments ago, and Ava Dah-Ling is being held pending her trial, for the murders of Avery Daily and Mark Lyle.”
The pounding noise hadn’t stopped, and Shawn reached out to shut off the TV. It took a second to realize someone was knocking on his door.
“Spencer! Open this door.”
Shawn pushed himself to his feet, tossing the phone across the room before opening the door. Lassiter stood there still wearing his torn shirt, his arm all wrapped up in the gauze. He looked exhausted, but resolved. It didn’t bode well for Shawn.
Lassiter pushed past him. “Please, come in,” Shawn said.
“We need to talk,” Lassiter snapped.
“Okay, let’s talk,” Shawn said, pushing his door shut. “I just saw the news. Cyril’s been cleared?”
“Only officially,” Lassiter said, and his caustic tone gave away just how he felt about that. “Vick doesn’t want to risk publicly accusing him of another crime he may or may not have committed. She also wanted me to tell you, there’s a case waiting, if you want it.”
“Vick wants my help on a case?” Shawn asked. “I thought I was on restriction or something.”
“Yes, well.” Lassiter cleared his throat. “After all the press we’re getting right now, we didn’t really have a choice, did we?”
“You’re so gracious when you’re wrong, too, that’s what I like about you,” Shawn said.
“I wasn’t wrong,” Lassiter snapped. “Riner fooled even you in the end, didn’t he?”
“He didn’t hurt anyone,” Shawn said. “That’s all I’ve been saying all along.”
“Not that you can see,” Lassiter said. “But there are laws for a reason, Spencer, and when you break them, even when you bend them, there are repercussions, there’s ripples for years.”
“And sometimes the same thing can be said about following the law to the letter,” Shawn said. “Every action we make has consequences, Lassie, that’s life. But following all the rules doesn’t automatically make you right, it doesn’t exempt you from anything at all.”
“Why am I not surprised you’re taking that stance?” Lassiter snapped.
“Is this what you came here for?” Shawn asked. “To have this same argument again?”
“No,” Lassiter said, and he sounded frustrated. “We’ve never really had a chance to finish our conversation.”
“Which one?” Shawn asked.
“The one where you asked me to trust you,” Lassiter said. “At least, that’s where it started.”
“Oh, right,” Shawn said. “You mean when I asked you to trust me, and then you didn’t?”
“Can you blame me?” Lassiter demanded. “You’re lying to me, Spencer, so how can I trust you? You’re always so convinced you’re right, but I can’t take your word for it when you’re basing it on a lie. I can’t. I can’t afford to. So if you want me to trust you, then you’re going to have to trust me first.”
“I do trust you!” Shawn protested. “I’ve trusted you all along. I’m not the one with issues.”
“Really?” Lassiter demanded. “Then why do you hide behind this act? If you trust me, then why don’t you tell me the truth? I mean, good god, Spencer, your father must have really screwed you up.”
“This has nothing to do with him,” Shawn said. “Leave him out of it.”
Lassiter winced and turned away. “You’re right, I’m sorry,” he said.
“You know what I can’t figure out about you, Lassiter?” Shawn asked. Lassiter went still at the full use of his name, Shawn might as well have called him Carlton for the effect it had. “All I’ve ever done is try to help you. Ever since I met you. I think you’re an amazing cop, I really do, I’m not trying—”
“Stop it,” Lassiter snapped. “I can’t believe a thing you say.”
“But I’m the one with trust issues?” Shawn demanded.
“Look me in the eye, Spencer,” Lassiter said quietly. “Look me in the eye and tell me you’re really psychic, that the ‘spirits’ really talk to you, that that’s how you know the things you know.”
“Why are you doing this to me?" Shawn asked. “What have I ever done to you? What did I do that makes you hate me this much?”
“I don't hate you—” Lassiter started. “Spencer, I don't.”
“No, you just can't stand being around me,” Shawn said. “Because I'm a better detective than you are.”
Lassiter froze in place, but he couldn’t deny that it was true. “Yes,” he said.
“Well, get over it,” Shawn yelled.
“Yeah, I'll get right on that,” Lassiter snapped.
“You should!” Shawn said. “I'm not your competition. We're supposed to be on the same side!”
“I know that,” Lassiter said, raising his voice to match Shawn's. “But you don't even have to try, you don't have to work for anything. It isn't fair.”
Shawn laughed, and stepped further away from him. "No, it isn't fair," he said, "but don't be so sure I got the better deal—you don't want to see what I see."
"You're not psychic!" Lassiter yelled, grabbing Shawn and pushing him against the wall. "You don't see anything!"
“What is it that you want from me?” Shawn asked him, sounding vulnerable for maybe the first time since Lassiter's known him. Even when he first walked into that interrogation room and into Lassiter’s life he’d never really faltered, just sat there making jokes and spinning stories out of thin air. “What do you want me to say?”
“I want you to tell me the truth, Spencer,” Lassiter said.
“You say that like there can only be one truthful answer,” Shawn told him. “And it's not that simple at all.”
“You're not making any sense,” Lassiter snapped.
“I told you the truth the day I met you,” Shawn said, and slipped out of Lassiter’s grip. He pushed off the wall and backed away. “You didn't believe it. So I changed it up a little and you still didn't believe it, but everyone else did.”
Lassiter gave a disbelieving laugh. “So what, you really can just read guilt off TV interviews?”
“Since before I was six,” Shawn said.
Lassiter paused, looking into Shawn's eyes. Lassiter had been trained to read guilt too, and it occurred to him for the first time that he was never reading Shawn quite right. Lassiter had been convinced that he had some inside source for years, but it had just been him, all along, maybe sneaking a few real live clues once and awhile, but drawing the conclusions all on his own.
Shawn paced to the other side of the room. “You spoke to your ex-wife today. When I had your phone earlier I noticed you had six missed calls, and she's the only person besides me you'll let go to voicemail without answering, but you never let her get to seven, you would have picked up that last time. You went to the diner on fourth street for lunch. You left the receipt on your dashboard and I saw it when I stopped by the station. You had a roast beef sandwich and two diet cokes.”
Lassiter just stared at him. “Shawn—”
“I'll never admit it,” Shawn said. “And anyway, there's no way to be certain what's true. Maybe I do have a gift. You don't know. I can tell you everywhere you've been today just by looking at you. Who else do you know that can do that?”
“No one,” Lassiter said.
“In a way this is all your fault,” Shawn told him. “If you'd just believed me that first day, I would have left with the reward money and you never would have seen me again.”
Lassiter nodded, looking away. “Then maybe it's for the best that I didn't,” he said.
Shawn sucked in a shaky breath, and exhaled with a faint laugh. “Don’t say that if you’re not sure it’s true,” he said.
“I never really thought you were psychic, Spencer,” Lassiter said. “I just couldn’t figure out how you were doing it. That’s the part that’s been driving me nuts.”
“I’m not lying, exactly,” Shawn said. “I see things, more than most. That’s the truth. I know you never bought my reasoning, but if I hadn’t presented it like I have been you wouldn’t have listened at all.”
Lassiter grabbed Shawn by the front of this shirt, but this time he pulled him close instead of pushing him away. “I’m listening now,” he said quietly. “So how did you do it? How did you know what really happened?”
“You thought Cyril was lying to you,” Shawn said. “That’s why you thought he was guilty.”
”I know, I was wrong,” Lassiter said.
“You weren’t wrong,” Shawn said. “He was lying to you. Just not about what you thought he was. That’s your only problem, Lassie, and you do the same thing with me. If someone lies about one thing you don’t believe anything else they say.”
“Why should I?” Lassiter said.
“Because it’s not as black and white as you think it is,” Shawn said. “All good liars know the best place to start is the truth. Cyril was trying to tell you the truth, he was just using lies to do it.”
“And that makes sense to you?” Lassiter demanded.
“Yes, because I do the same thing,” Shawn said.
“Then stop,” Lassiter whispered. “Just this once, stop it and tell me the truth. How did you know?”
“Cyril had the safety on his gun. That means he put it on after shooting out the light to make sure he couldn’t hurt me,” Shawn said. “See? I’ve already told you the truth, you’re just not seeing it quite the same way I do. If Cyril was able to get his hands on a gun he could have gotten more than one bullet, and if he was just a killer he would have used them. It’s the same way I knew that bank robber wasn’t a bank robber.”
“And Ava Dah-Ling?” Lassiter asked. “It was the bracelet, right?”
“That, and the fact that she lied about what she really saw,” Shawn said. “Plus I just really wanted it to be her.”
Lassiter looked strange and serious, kind of coiled and breathless, and Shawn half expected Lassiter was planning to hit him when he leaned down and kissed him instead. Shawn felt some of the fear that had started building the moment Lassiter had walked through his door dissipate as he wrapped his arms around his neck to kiss him back.
“If I’d known that was the response I would get for telling you the truth, I would have tried it ages ago,” Shawn said breathlessly.
Lassiter pulled back. “You’re amazing, I don’t even know what to make of you,” he said, “but to hear you say it, it seems so simple, I don’t know why I never saw it myself.”
“Because you probably had a happy childhood,” Shawn said. “Discounting your one weird snow globe phobia.”
Lassiter gave a slight laugh and pulled Shawn closer, slipping his hands under his shirt as he leaned into his ear. “When we first met, how did you know I was sleeping with my partner?”
Shawn leaned his head back as Lassiter kissed his way up his neck, closing his eyes. "You touched her hair when you walked by," he said.
"And that first case?” Lassiter asked. “How did you know what happened with the McCallums?"
"It just made sense," he said, as Lassiter maneuvered them to the couch. "I knew what it was to be the bad kid, but he was too smart to have it end like that. He'd planned it too well, they didn't even have the money yet, and anyway they were friends. Plus, Gus and I found the duffle bag that held the ransom money that was never found, and Gus found the dog-bite cream in the bathroom when he was throwing up."
"The dinosaur?" Lassiter demanded, pushing Shawn back onto the couch. "How the hell did you know it was a dinosaur?"
"You mean you don't know what a dinosaur bite looks like?" Shawn asked.
"Spencer!" Lassiter said, dropping down to straddle him.
"Almost got eaten by a dinosaur once, when I was working at a museum. Had the bruises for a year. They were the same shape and space apart as the ones your victim had on him," Shawn let out a gasp as Lassiter's hand slipped lower. "I was as surprised as you were that I was right."
Lassiter pulled back for a moment. "You would have made an extraordinary cop."
Shawn laughed. "When did you decide you wanted to be a cop?" he asked.
"What?" Lassiter asked.
"When?" Shawn said.
"When I was kid," Lassiter said after a moment. "I don't know, ten, eleven."
"By that age?" Shawn said. "I already was. My dad might as well have dressed me up in a uniform before sending me off to school. I could recite the California police codes by heart. I could have read someone their rights.”
"I served my time,” Shawn said. "I retired when I turned eighteen."
"It's not just to disappoint my dad, I didn't give up his dreams to ruin his life," Shawn told him. "I did it to save mine. I couldn't do what you do. I couldn't. This is the only way I know how to live."
Lassiter rested his forehead against Shawn's. "Shawn—”
"Are you going to tell on me?" he asked.
"What? That you're not psychic?" Lassiter said. "That's what I've been saying since I met you."
"Yes," Shawn said, “but I've just given you my confession."
“Nothing has changed,” Lassiter whispered, and kissed him again. “I’ve known it all along.”