The dimly lit clock on the dashboard reads five minutes after midnight as the little blue Echo glides along the back country road. According to the scanner, the route Shawn would normally take back to the station has flooded.
On the seat next to him, his cell phone springs to life with the fast-flowing lyrics of 'One Week' by the Barenaked Ladies. Gus is calling, most likely to cock his head to the side and say he's angry.
There's a chance – just a small one – that Shawn didn't ask to borrow the car before using it.
Shawn has a list of perfectly valid reasons to defend his actions with – Gus is caught up on his route and doesn't need it, Henry is out fishing with his truck (not literally, though Shawn indulges that vision for a minute. The two would get along well – old, cranky, a pain in the ass on occasion but ultimately needed by Shawn), and there's no way Shawn's taking his Norton out in this torrential downpour.
Not to mention, this car is the Official Psych Getaway Car – Juliet has promised to make a bumper sticker for the Blueberry and everything. As co-founder of the agency, it is only fair that Shawn gets to use it in his time of need.
Besides, Gus shouldn't have left the keys in the pocket of his discarded coat if he hadn't wanted Shawn to take the car. It was asking to be used, really.
"Don't worry, OPGC," Shawn reassures the car. "OP – Gec? O to the P to the GC?" He frowns for a minute, mangling the English language a little further as he attempts to pronounce the acronym.
"Why don't we stick with Blueberry? You'll always keep your rank in my heart," he vows the car. "I've got your back. Or your front. Your interior, really – I'm not getting out during this storm. I'm sorry, but you'll have to get wet all on your own."
The windshield wipers stutter a little, halting in their oscillating motion and allowing the windshield to become splattered with visibility-blocking droplets.
"I promise you, Gus' credit card will spring for a nice wash and wax when this is over."
Satisfied, the wipers return to their duty. Shawn's ringtone stops, his display flashing one new voicemail message. While he's sure that his friends at the SBPD have more on their hands tonight than pulling him over for talking on a cell phone while driving, Shawn doesn't want to risk the distraction in this weather.
Nestled underneath the cell phone on the passenger seat is the case file for a homicide he's been investigating with Gus this week. The brother did it. Surprise twist? He's not really the brother. The cleft chin is the key clue.
Shawn is planning on claiming Gus as his long-lost sibling during the 'vision' of the big reveal. With Gus (aka MagicHead and his SuperSmeller, both names Shawn is trying to get trademarked) for a best friend, he has never wanted a sibling. There is no role a brother or sister could play that Gus hasn't at least once during the course of their friendship.
Soft plinks upon the windshield signify that it's hailing. Shawn judges the hailstones to be no larger than a penny; nothing major. The lightning strikes flashing above his head are much more worrisome.
It would be an instant-bingo upon his 'unique ways to die' card, but Shawn would really not begin this day as a statistic. He's sure he much prefers pretending to be a psychic. The quality of life is so much better, as are the nicknames.
Fearless Guster's voice is in his head, letting him know that traveling in a little metal box (comfortable metal cocoon, he reassures the car before it can protest) during a lightning storm is equivalent to poking the sleeping bear with a stick-- stupid, and likely to get him injured.
Shawn takes one particularly sharp curve in the road carefully, not wanting to lose traction and skid out on these slippery roads. A car crash would be a painful way to begin the day, to be sure – but the aftermath more so. Gus would never let him drive the car again and Henry would personally insure his driver's license was revoked.
There's a tunnel up ahead that should serve as a decent shelter until the lightning dies down. Shawn pulls off to the side of the road just within its confines, leaving the headlights on to alert any oncoming motorists to his presence. Visibility is low, the roads are slippery – these are prime accident conditions.
He is visiting the cops – bringing them out here completely defeats the purpose. Plus, the responding officers would most likely not bring with them the secret stash of pineapple that Buzz McNabb hides in his second desk drawer.
With nothing left to do but wait the storm out, Shawn snags his cell phone from the seat and calls Gus.
"Burton Guster," his friend answers promptly.
"You have Google-Fu, but can't figure out the caller ID? Besides, who else would be calling you at this time? Unless you had– Gus, you sly dog!"
Gus is sporting his exasperated-but-amused tone #3 (a ratio of 60% exasperated to 40% amused, with not-quite-hidden undertones of frustration). Shawn recognizes it as the one most often used when his friend is getting sidetracked while trying to warn him about something. Deciding to throw his friend a bone, he offers a casual, "What's up?"
"Well, for one – wait, Shawn, you're not driving now, are you?"
"Technically?" Gus questions immediately.
"So you're home?"
Gus' Trusty Tone Ratio changes, registering on Shawn's Handy Dandy Scale as 80% exasperated to about 20% concerned. "Where are you exactly, then? If you lie to me, I'm having Juliet trace the Lo-Jack on the car."
Shawn gives his friend points for creativity; he knows by now that Gus delivers his best threats -- with the most confidence -- when he's worried about Shawn. "Okay, first? Since when does the car have Lo-Jack?"
"It's a company car, Shawn. Of course it has Lo-Jack!" Gus defends.
Shawn pointedly decides to ignore that response. "Second: the correct tense to address your concerns would have been future perfect."
"You mean future continuous?"
"You can't make up verb tenses, Gus! Also: what ever happened to just past, present, and future, huh? KISS is the motto to follow, people!"
"Future perfect implies a timeline – the action is occurring before another event. Future continuous is simply 'will be' and your present participle – knowing you; it was 'will be driving.'"
"Gus, not even the English teachers have that thorough an understanding of the language. I'm falling asleep just listening to you."
Gus' exasperation level rises 5%, his concern dipping respectively. "Just answer the question, Shawn."
"I'm pulled off to the side of a road in a tunnel, waiting the lightning out."
Shawn ignores Gus' response as the distinctive swish of an approaching car filters through his senses. "I'm also about to get soaked," he interrupts with his prediction.
He doesn't have to be psychic to know that the puddle collecting off to his left is going to be kicked up by a passing vehicle.
He watches the headlights of a blue truck grow brighter in his rear-view mirror; sees a glance of the driver's face (male, mid-50s, short brown hair and a long face adorned with thin-framed bifocals).
The driver swerves as he passes, trying to avoid hurtling through the puddle and splashing Shawn. It's to no avail – the puddle is too large to avoid completely. The truck kicks up all the sediments in the puddle, which plaster themselves to the side of the car.
The Blueberry is going to need that car wash.
A particularly bright flash of lightning illuminates the sky for a brief minute – the crackle of electricity in the air raises the hair on the back of Shawn's neck. The following sizzle indicates to him the lightning has made contact with something nearby.
So, maybe seeking shelter was one of his better plans. His inner Gus is usually right about these kinds of things.
Shawn waits for the thunderstorm's usual symphony to be restored; frowns when sounds unlike the thunder and lightning he has become accustomed to throw off the usual cadence. It takes a minute for him to place the sounds, but there is no mistaking them once he does.
Those are tree branches breaking. Branches no more immune to the force of gravity than Shawn is able to go a week without a '80s reference. Branches with nowhere to go but down. If volume is a decent indicator, then branches that are bringing trees down with them.
The blue truck is just exiting the tunnel when the tree plummets to the ground, landing squarely on the truck's hood.
"Well, that's not good," Shawn comments. "Gus, I'm going to have to call you back. Call Jules anyways, will you? We've got an accident here."
Shawn is already shifting the car into gear as he hangs up on his friend.
The phone rings again before his foot can so much as brush the gas pedal. "Sorry, Gus," he answers without preamble. "I forget how you worry," he grins, tone dripping over-the-top sweetness with every syllable.
"I am fine, but I just witnessed an accident up ahead. A tree fell on a guy's truck. I'm going to see if he's hurt. Get Juliet to trace the supposed Lo-Jack on this car – it'll give her a location."
He doesn't give his friend a chance to respond before hanging up on him again. He gets the Echo as close as he can to the accident, swerving around scattered pieces of debris – mainly broken branches from the fall. Gus' ringtone is chiming angrily in his pocket, so he sets his cell to silent as he slips out of the driver's side door.
A light drizzle clings to his clothes as he approaches cautiously. The back end of the truck looks mostly unharmed, although it is resting a good foot or so off the ground. Shawn puts a hand out to still the slowly spinning back wheel as he passes.
The hood of the truck is buried beneath the tree trunk, but the cab seems mostly intact. A large crack runs down the center of the windshield.
The driver is unconscious, slumped over the wheel. He is bleeding – a trickle from a wound at his temple. The door frame is bent out of shape – it takes a hard yank to open the driver's door, which proceeds to teeter back and forth eerily as Shawn moves in closer to get a better idea of the man's condition.
Shawn places two fingers to the pulse point at his neck and breathes a sigh of relief – he is unconscious, but alive.
Shawn had picked up some first aid skills while working as a lifeguard on a cruise ship in the summer of '94, but his knowledge of CPR isn't much use when the guy is breathing just fine.
He's pretty sure there's a rule about not moving victims, in case of a neck injury. That's fine with him. "Sir?" he calls hesitantly, looking to see if the man wakes.
He doesn't. Shawn rises on his tiptoes, peering further into the car to try and get a better idea of who this guy is. He spots a wallet on the passenger seat.
"Well, this is going to be awkward." The truck seems fairly stable, despite being tilted at a 30° angle. Shawn hoists himself into the cab, bracing himself with one hand on the door frame as he reaches across the unconscious man to grab the wallet. "Please don't wake up now, unconscious-guy-I-don't-know. This could take some explaining."
He sifts through the assorted cards in the wallet, spying a driver's license wedged between a frequent buyer's freebie card for a coffee shop in Santa Barbara and the well-worn photo of a house. Probably his childhood home, if it has been kept in his wallet all these years. The laminated plastic license displays the name and picture of Mike Tibor.
Shawn looks over at the unconscious man. "You, sir, are not Mike." Mike has a round, plump face; this man is all hard lines and sharp angles. Mike's eyes are brown; Shawn closes his eyes, thinks back to the brief glimpse he caught of the driver as he passed. This guy's eyes are distinctly blue.
He considers seeing if the man is carrying a wallet of his own, one that holds the clue to his actual identity. But feeling up an unconscious man is a little creepy, even for him.
Instead, he works off the basic clues he can see without having to touch. Tan line on the finger indicates he's married. His leather jacket is frayed with years of use, but doesn't stray the line into ratty – wherever the fabric has worn dangerously thin, it has been carefully patched. He cares for his possessions, but doesn't skimp on purchases, as his Italian loafers suggest.
Either he's not always sensible – expensive shoes in a thunderstorm like this? – or he'd been in a hurry on his way out the door.
A glint of silver catches his eye. With a frown, Shawn tugs the necklace out from under the man's lapels to get a closer look. A small teardrop-shaped glass trinket hangs from the chain. Shawn pinches it between his thumb and forefinger and raises it to his eye line.
Inside the glass container are a miniature red rose, a green gemstone the size of his fingernail, and a single grain of rice. Shawn recognizes the style – name-on-rice jewellery. He bought his mother a necklace with her name inscribed on a grain of rice just a few Christmases ago. He tilts the necklace until a name is visible – Colby.
The-man-possibly-named-Colby (Shawn can't see why he'd be wearing a necklace with another man's name, but he doesn't know why this guy has Mike Tibor's wallet, either) stirs slightly, but doesn't regain consciousness.
"Pleased to meet you," Shawn returns, undaunted.
His eyes wander over the rest of the scene, absorbing every detail easily. They land at last on the back seat, where a small handgun rests.
A groan follows this blunt statement. Colby's hand twitches towards the back seat. Shawn lets out a high-pitched squeal, leaping backwards.
Colby's right hand reaches out blindly, bumping into the dashboard. The man's eyes open to slits as he tries to regain his bearings. A hand gently prods the wound at his temple, stilling with a hiss and a wince when he touches a particularly tender spot.
Shawn leaps into action. "Sir?" He closes the short distance between them, placing a hand on Colby's shoulder. "Help is on the way." Gus would've called Juliet by now and gotten someone sent out here.
"Whassat?" His words are slightly slurred, and Shawn feels any lingering fear dissipate. Regardless of why he has a weapon in the back seat, this man is no threat to him.
Not right now, at least. Maybe – just maybe – Shawn should try and grab that gun before the man remembers it's there.
But as long as Colby doesn't look back at it, Shawn won't either.
"A tree fell on your car. You were injured – your head is bleeding, as you just discovered," he explains wryly. "I've called for help – it's on the way."
Shawn's pretty sure he covered that, but repeats for the sake of the concussed. "Tree. Your car. Big impact. Smush-smush."
Colby just blinks.
"Right then. I'll go see how that help's coming." He moves back towards the Echo with the intention of digging out the first aid kit Gus is bound to have stashed somewhere. It shouldn't be too hard to find – Gus skinned a knee while running away from a suspect who turned out to be innocent on their last case. Shawn only just talked him out of getting a tetanus shot. Gus may be willing to inflict the pain of a pointy needle on himself, but it is a best friend's duty to stop ideas like that in their tracks.
He finds the kit in the glove compartment, stocked with enough bandages to fix up Colby's head and then some. Shawn is sure Gus has an antiseptic stashed somewhere, although the question of where that might be is anyone's guess.
Why should he look when he can simply ask?
A glance at his cell phone reveals four missed calls. Gus has been a worried little busy bee. The first two are from Gus, the third from Juliet, the fourth from – oddly enough – Lassiter.
He calls Juliet back first.
"Detective O'Hara," she chirps.
"Shawn!" Whatever more she has to say is cut off as the sounds of a struggle filter through the line.
Shawn frowns as he recognizes one of the signature tones of his best friend. "I sense Gus is with you."
As if on cue, Gus gains control of the phone. "—of course I came to get Juliet! What were you thinking, Shawn? Telling me you're in an accident and then hanging up the phone, scaring years off my life!" Gus sounds like he's in for the long haul, lecture-wise. Shawn interrupts before he can truly get started.
"To be fair, I didn't say I was in an accident."
"You said 'we.'"
"The royal we!"
"That makes no sense," Gus snaps.
Shawn just grins. "But you're not so concerned anymore."
Juliet manages to get her phone back for a brief second, long enough to inform him that he's being put on speaker. Smart of Jules – when he and Gus get going, it can be hard for anyone else to get a word in edgewise.
"Shawn, I traced the Lo-Jack on your car," she begins with.
"My car," Gus interrupts.
"Our car." Shawn pats the dashboard of the Blueberry affectionately.
"It's a company car!"
"You never specified which company."
"—we just received a report that the road ahead of you is blocked," Juliet cuts in with. "You said there was an accident? Is anybody hurt?"
"The downed tree blocking the road landed on the hood of a truck. Only the driver was inside – he's just regained consciousness. He has a minor head wound and a definite concussion, but seems to be in good shape, considering."
"That's good to hear. Since the other main road up that way is flooded, we're going to have to send a crew up to remove that tree before we can get any EMTs through to you. They can't start work until the lightning dies down – but according to the weather network, the storm should be passing shortly. Are you guys going to be good until then?"
"We'll be fine," Shawn assures her. "I'll keep us entertained. I have a beautiful singing voice, you know."
Gus snorts, but Juliet opts for the polite response. "I'm sure you do."
"Hey, is Lassie around?" He questions innocently. "I have a missed call from him, as well."
"The Chief asked him to call when she heard you were in the area. We're investigating a homicide-- a man was murdered in his house, about two miles south of your position. Lassiter's up there now, actually. I'm stuck at the station because we need all the help we can get to deal with the influx of 911 calls related to the storm. I swear—it rains, and everybody forgets how to drive!"
Shawn grins – he loves solving one case just to be picked up on a new one. "A case, Jules? What do we know so far?"
"A thirty-two year old male was found murdered in his kitchen by his housekeeper. It doesn't look to be a robbery – his electronics were untouched. His truck and his wallet were the only things taken. Victim's name is Mike Tibor."
If Shawn had a desk, he's fairly confident his forehead would be meeting it. "You said 'Mike Tibor'?"
"Yeah. Do you know him?"
Shawn neatly sidesteps that question, reciting the license plate of the truck ahead of him to compare against the stolen vehicle. "...J8," Juliet confirms. "How'd you know that?"
"I'm looking at his truck right now. The car crash victim has Tibor's wallet and a gun in the back seat." Juliet and Gus make the appropriately astounded and/or concerned noises.
"Oh, Colby," Shawn mutters. "Just what have you gotten yourself into?"
Gus is the first to voice his concerns coherently. "Oh my god, you're trapped in a tunnel with a murderer."
"Thanks for the optimism, Gus." They're not trapped, anyways – one end of the tunnel is still perfectly clear. Shawn has a working car and everything.
"See what happens when you take the car without permission?"
"Borrowing the car does not translate into trapped with a killer, karma-wise." Shawn defends, and then pauses. "I think. Does it, do you figure?"
"A black cat crossed your path yesterday, too. It adds up, Shawn!"
"That was a skunk!"
"That was a cat. One white patch under its chin does not make it a skunk."
By the time Juliet interrupts them, she is wearing her determined professional tone of voice that brooks no nonsense. "Look, Shawn, I'm going to call Lassiter in for backup. I don't want you to approach the suspect again until Carlton --." Shawn cuts her off – no nonsense does not equate to no hijinks in his world.
He knows how the evidence looks. But the thing is – he's pretty sure Colby didn't do it. This is a man who swerved to avoid splashing a stopped car. He doesn't sound like a cold-blooded murderer to Shawn. The pieces just don't fit.
He's sure Juliet has his best interests in mind, but it is probably in Colby's if Shawn can get this case solved before the road is cleared.
"Oh, don't worry about that. I'll call Lassie and explain everything to him. You've got enough on your hands." He hangs up quickly, not giving either of his friends a chance to discuss the matter further.
He figures he has about fifteen minutes before Juliet calls Lassiter to check that Shawn's done what he said he would. After that, about five seconds before his phone rings. He needs to make this time count.
Shawn gathers up all the first aid supplies he originally came for – and fishes Gus' mini-bat out from under the seat, just in case.
He returns to find Colby has fallen asleep again. Shawn takes advantage of this situation by grabbing the gun off the backseat. Holding the weapon carefully by the handle, he wraps it in one of the emergency blankets and sets it aside.
The victim-turned-possible-murderer stirs as Shawn places pressure on the wound, wrapping it tightly with the bandages to stem the flow of blood. "Don't worry," he murmurs. "It's superficial. Besides, chicks dig scars." He pins the bandage in place once he's finished.
Colby seems to be coming around and becoming more aware of his surroundings. Shawn runs through the usual list of questions for a concussion check – name, birthday, year, location, etc. Colby's able to get most of the questions, but is a little fuzzy on the events leading up to the crash. He's improved since waking up though, so Shawn figures that's a good sign.
Eventually, Colby manages to focus his attention on the person helping him.
"Hey," Shawn grins. "Want to get out of here?"
Mike's wallet gives them his address. The GPS system does the rest. Shawn spots Lassiter's Crown Vic as he pulls into the driveway.
Colby is buckled in beside him. Shawn had laid the second emergency blanket down before settling him into the passenger seat. Gus has this thing about not wanting blood on the upholstery.
"Come on, Colby." Shawn still hasn't gotten real confirmation his name is Colby, but it's better than calling him 'hey, you.'
Shawn debates the merits of bringing what is most likely the murder weapon with him into the house – eventually deciding to slip it into the inside pocket of his coat. On the off chance Colby did do this, he is concussed and docile – but it never hurts to be prepared.
"We're going in."
He hoists one of Colby's arms over his shoulder to help lift him out of the car. Lightning is still flashing off in the distance, but at least it has stopped hailing. Small mercies.
Together, they manage to make their way to the door. This is the house pictured in Tibor's wallet – a three-story, well-aged Victorian home. Shawn knocks on the door and resists the urge to shiver; both of them are soaked through after the short walk from the car to the porch.
The door swings open, followed by the leading edge of Lassiter's weapon. Colby manages to get one of his hands in the air in the traditional 'I surrender' gesture, but Shawn still has the other looped around his shoulders.
"Hi, Lassie," Shawn greets the older man cheerfully, having fully expected this reception. Lassiter lowers his weapon but doesn't holster it as he realizes they are not suspects (well, not that he knows of yet, at least), coming back to the scene of the crime. "Mind if we stop by?"
Lassiter's calculating eyes sweep over their bedraggled appearance, a dozen questions springing to mind. But there will be time to get answers later-- he has more immediate priorities now. Both of the men standing before him look like they're about to fall over.
He holsters his weapon and helps Shawn settle the injured man on a couch in the living room. A wound on the man's forehead has been carefully bandaged, but he still looks quite out of it.
He whirls around to face Shawn. "You're dripping all over my crime scene, Spencer."
The consultant looks slightly sheepish, but he's still grinning. "Sorry about that. I don't know if you've noticed this – but we're getting a spot of rain."
Lassiter just rolls his eyes. Has he noticed the thunderstorm? No, he's been on another planet for the duration.
"Who is he?" He jerks his head at the man Spencer has brought with him.
"Lassie, meet Colby. Colby, meet Detective Lassiter with the SPBD." Shawn neatly sidesteps the underlying request for an explanation, making the introductions with his usual enthusiasm.
"Det'ctive?" Colby raises his head to confirm.
"Head Detective," Lassiter clarifies.
"Poor Colby here was in a car accident. A tree fell on top of his truck." Lassiter notes how Shawn looks away at the phrase 'his truck', but doesn't interrupt the explanation.
"Unfortunately, that tree is now blocking the only working road into town – the other is flooded. Since Juliet tells me it could be awhile until the road clears, I figured I'd come and help you out with this case."
"Right," Lassiter drawls. There is more to this story that Shawn is leaving out, of that he is sure. Spencer is not so good a liar so as to fool Lassiter – Carlton is simply never sure exactly what the man is lying about.
The psychic act, he knows about; has known from the very first day. There is no real point in calling him on it – for one, it gets results.
It is also partially his fault – Shawn had not come in claiming he was psychic-- he had not given that excuse until Lassiter had backed him into a corner. It is Shawn who chose to pursue the lie as a career, though.
Carlton surreptitiously surveys Spencer as the consultant makes his way around the room, casually drinking in every detail. He is shivering ever so slightly – but that is not unexpected, considering he is completely drenched.
"Spencer," Lassiter sighs. "It looks like we're going to be holed up here awhile – at least until the road clears. Why don't you go change into some dry clothes?"
Before Spencer has a chance to respond to the unexpectedly considerate suggestion – regardless of the hard-nosed attitude Lassiter usually wears, he is prone to them on occasion – Carlton's phone rings.
Shawn knows that will be Juliet calling.
"I've got a change of clothes in the car," Shawn calls out. "I'll just duck out and grab them!" He slips out the door just as Lassiter answers his phone.
He takes off from the porch at a sprint, using the car's remote to unlock the Blueberry's doors before he gets there. His heart is pounding as he ducks inside the car, slamming the door shut to keep the rain out while he searches for his clothes.
If he concentrates on the house, he imagines he can see Lassiter's smouldering ire.
Maybe he'll stay out here a little while longer. Just to be safe.
With more than a little surprise, Shawn realizes he's actually shivering. He sticks the key in the ignition so he can turn the heat up, but doesn't start the car.
The living room curtains slide open to reveal Lassiter standing in the window, still holding his cell phone to one ear. He has the expression of someone who's just sucked on a lemon-- completely sour. Shawn leans across the seat to open the glove compartment and dig out something to eat – this car could double as a bomb shelter, for what it holds in supplies.
Lassiter is gesturing something – whether it is 'come back in here' or 'I'm going to shoot you', Shawn can't be quite sure. Knowing Lassiter, he could mean both.
Shawn turns on the radio, locks the car doors, and waves back.
His phone rings within the next three seconds. It seems Shawn's earlier estimate of five for Lassiter to digest this new information was a little high.
"Lassie, hi!" Shawn greets, holding the phone to his ear with his shoulder, freeing his hands to tear open the bag of chips.
"When exactly were you planning on sharing the truth, Spencer? Choose your answer carefully – keep in mind I can still shoot you from here." Definitely the second of the gestures, then.
"Oh, come on. I didn't lie to you."
"A lie by omission."
"Oh, what is up with that? You and my father – forgetting details does not constitute a lie!" Shawn defends. His Dad always used to call him out on that as a child, but Shawn never considered it a lie if everything he did say was the truth.
"Your little friend becoming the prime suspect in a murder is a pretty big detail to forget," Lassiter snarks back.
"But he didn't do it!"
"Where's your proof?" Lassiter questions.
Shawn gives an overdramatic gasp. "Lassie, you wound me. I thought we'd moved past this silly 'proof' stage after all the times I've been right. Can't we just skip to the part where you believe me?"
Of course Lassiter needs proof. Shawn would be worried if he didn't – arrests are made on evidence, not gut feelings. While Shawn is reasonably sure that Colby is innocent, one of them needs to take into account that he might not be. Shawn has been wrong about people before, although it is rather rare.
"No." Let it never be said that Lassiter is one to beat around the bush. "Are you coming back inside, Spencer, or what?"
Half of Shawn wants to stay exactly where he is – nice, warm car; plenty of snacks; as many channels as Gus and his satellite radio can get. But his clothes are still soaked, and Shawn is determined to prove Colby's innocence.
"Yeah, I'll be there in a second." He leans over to dig the bag full of extra clothes out of the backseat – one can never have too many changes of clothes in their line of work – and braces himself for the run back to the porch.
It takes five seconds, six at most. Shawn has always favoured sprints over long distances. The rain is cold, but he cannot possibly become any more soaked – his clothes have doubled their weight with the amount of water they have taken on.
Lassiter is waiting for him in the doorway, torn between a grimace and a grin at Shawn's unusually out-of-sorts appearance. The well-renowned hair has been flattened (although Carlton would deem it 'tamed') and plastered securely to Spencer's scalp.
"You could have taken an umbrella," Lassiter points out, stepping aside to reveal three of the things sitting in a small container by the door.
Shawn grins. "But then I wouldn't get to do this." Stepping off the welcome mat, he moves his head from side to side to shake the water out. Without the raindrops weighing it down, the hair breaks out of the rain's influence, jumping back to its usual height (and style) with a small sproing!
Lassiter is wholly unimpressed as he glances down to see the water formerly residing on Shawn splattered across his suit.
Shawn shrugs out of his wet jacket, hanging it up on the stand beside the umbrellas. "What did you do with Colby?" he asks curiously, peering around the corner into the living room.
"Cuffed him to the armrest," Lassiter replies as if it's the most obvious answer in the world.
"The couch's armrest?" Shawn confirms.
"Yeah," Lassiter confirms, eyes flicking over to where – oh. Oh, no.
"So maybe Colby was faking the concussion thing," Shawn offers up after a minute.
One of the cuffs is still securely attached to the armrest. The other hangs down loosely, open-- the wrist it formerly contained nowhere to be found.
Colby has escaped.
Lassiter has two requests – two requests – and Spencer breaks both of them at once, chattering away about something or other as he steps into the room before Lassiter.
Carlton shoves his temporary partner against the wall, moving through the rest of the room in a methodical fashion with his weapon drawn, checking out all of the spaces a Colby-shaped body could be hiding. "Clear."
They move out into the hallway. It is unlikely that Colby would have braved the weather when it is this bad, so he has most likely hidden in the house somewhere. They are working their way from the bottom floor up, clearing each room before moving on.
Lassiter had considered tying Shawn to a chair in the living room – possibly cuffing him to the armrest like he had Colby in order to keep him quiet and out of danger -- but eventually decided against it. Spencer would figure a way out of the cuffs like his predecessor had, and then Lassiter would have a wayward psychic running around the house as well as a potential murderer.
Also – Carlton only has the one set of cuffs on him.
The silver metal discs are tucked into his back pocket – they don't look tampered with, so Colby must have picked the lock.
"...which brings us back to the epic battle between pineapple and banana," Shawn rambles. "Bananas are more versatile, obviously – smoothie, pudding, split; they've done it all. But pineapple has the superior flavour, and--."
Lassiter cuts him off, gripping his partner by the elbow to still his movement. "Spencer," he hisses. "What don't you understand about the word 'stealth'?"
"Did you know 'stealth' is an anagram for 'the salt'?" Spencer replies innocently. "Besides, he's not hiding out in here, anyways. Nobody hides in a bathroom – you're sure to be found with only a shower curtain as cover. He'd have to be the worst hide-and-seek player ever – and Gus has held that title since the Five-Second Game of '87."
Lassiter opens the door with a frown. He keeps his weapon up --while he trusts Spencer's word most of the time, the psychic is ultimately as fallible as the rest of them. He'd rather be paranoid and safe than hasty and shot.
He clears the bathroom quickly and efficiently."You're sure you've never been here before?" he quips. Spencer has been predicting the purpose of every new room before Lassiter has entered them. True to the psychic's usual track record, every guess so far has been dead on.
Lassiter doesn't even know the house that well, and he's been poking around it for the last three hours.
"The spirits of Interior Decorating are quite talkative, I'll have you know. Martha believes this hallway could benefit from the addition of an accent colour-- it's too one-tone with the blank pastel green walls. Don't even get her started on the layout of the living room."
A small creak reaches Lassiter's ears – he holds up a hand to silence Shawn. Their suspect is moving – all Carlton needs is another sound to get a rough idea of his position.
Spencer's voice is low in his ear. "Bedroom on the right, end of the hall."
"How did you...?" The first two fingers of Shawn's right hand fly up to his temple in response, and Lassiter sighs. "Never mind."
He takes Shawn at his word, moving swiftly to the closed door indicated. He presses his side up against the hallway wall, preparing to enter – keeping Shawn pinned against the wall beside him with an arm across his chest.
Then they are moving – Lassiter kicks the door open, his weapon at the ready. Spencer disregards orders and follows him into the room, taking up the position at his six with a cheeky grin and – is that a mini-bat?
The weapons turn out to be unnecessary. The 'creak' was not made by the footsteps of a criminal preparing to flee, as they first expected – but by a bedspring. Their missing suspect is passed out cold on the bed, sawing logs.
Shawn crinkles his nose. "We're leaving him here, right?"
Lassiter's incredulous look is answer enough.
"But he snores!" Shawn protests.
In the end, Lassiter makes an executive decision to put Colby where they can keep an eye on him. The man is non-threatening even in his aggressive actions (escaping only to fall asleep), but that does not negate the fact that he did manage to escape once.
They decide to put him in the small bedroom on the first floor. The window in that room is stuck, so Colby shouldn't be able to pull another Houdini act.
An alarm clock on the bedside table displays 1:45 AM. Psych has never been a 9-to-5 job, but Shawn usually has caffeine to balance out the long hours. Lassiter looks about as energetic as Shawn feels. It would be nice to avoid carrying Colby down the stairs to his new room, if it all possible.
Leaning over, Shawn pokes the man in the shoulder. Lassiter has already ensured their ex-fugitive didn't stop to pick up any weapons in his brief time on the lam.
"Colby, wake up." The man doesn't respond. "Rise and shine."
After a minute, Shawn leaps onto the end of the bed. Colby flinches, awakening in a hurry. "Whassa--?" No points for improved sentence structure, though.
"Who turn'd out the lights?" Colby mumbles.
Shawn slaps a hand to his forehead. "Oh, right!" He fishes Colby's glasses out of a pocket in his shirt, setting them carefully on the man's face. "Any better?"
"Mmhm," the man mutters sleepily.
"Right, then," Shawn crows happily. "We're going to move downstairs, now – we need you to walk."
Colby nods his agreement, but makes no further movements. Undaunted, Shawn takes the initiative. He slings one of Colby's arms around his shoulders and hoists him up, while Lassiter takes the other side.
The change in position gets their sleepy charge's blood flowing again – Colby manages to contribute steps of his own as they make the slow journey down the stairs and into the designated bedroom.
Colby curls up on the bed much like a cat, snagging one of the pillows to cradle. Lassiter takes hold of one of his wrists, gently tightening the metal cuff around it and securing it to the headboard. Shawn shakes out the blanket at the end of the bed, spreading it out over top of the tired man. He pats Colby's shoulder fondly before turning to Lassiter.
"Now, show me the crime scene."
"We can't leave him here unsupervised. People with concussions aren't supposed to fall asleep, and he's already escaped once," Lassiter points out.
Shawn rolls his eyes. "Colby knows what time it is, where he is, and who he's with. We should probably check on him every so often to make sure he's still responsive, but he should be fine." He turns back to their charge. "Colby? Concussion check. Year?"
"2009," comes the quiet reply.
"Santa Barbara," he murmurs sleepily.
"How did you get out of the handcuffs earlier?"
"Paper clip in my pocket." A small grin graces Colby's face as he says this. While more evidence of their suspect's deviousness is not helping his case, Shawn can't help but grin back.
"There you go," he points out to Lassiter. "Colby, do you think I could borrow that paperclip for a minute? I have some papers that... need clipping."
Colby fumbles with his pocket; manages to extract the thin metal object. Shawn snags it as soon as it's produced – you never know when tools like that could come in handy.
Lassiter still looks dubious, but leads the way into the kitchen.
The scene has already been processed – the coroner has removed the body, surfaces have been dusted for fingerprints, and markers have been set down.
Lassiter passes Shawn a file. "Photos of the original scene." Shawn spreads the visuals out on the kitchen table, comparing each picture to the one presented now.
"What time of day were these taken?" he asks offhandedly – they've had crime scene photos have been tampered with before, after all.
"I took these myself," Lassiter replies. "The body was discovered around 10. Estimated TOD from the coroner is about an hour prior to that."
Little details jump out at Shawn, but they are only fragments floating about. He has no theory to plug them into yet.
Dishes in the sink indicate another has come and gone. "I sense... Mike had a dinner guest."
"Most likely your friend in there. They got in an argument over dinner, one thing led to another..."
"Colby's lactose-intolerant," Shawn interrupts. "Both Mike and his guest took milk in their coffee." Shawn had spotted Colby's brittle nails earlier-- a telltale sign of a calcium deficiency. The coffee residue at the bottom of the two mugs is light-brown – not the colour of black coffee. It has been sweetened by something – but not sugar, for not a single undissolved grain remains. A quick glance in the fridge shows only milk-- no cream.
Shawn's eyes continue to rove the kitchen, absorbing every detail. The digital clock on the microwave is flashing – a sign of a power outage. The stored time has been lost. Most clocks reset to 12:00 AM when the power supply returns, keeping time from that point onwards. It now reads 5:04 AM.
"Lassie, what time is it?" he asks innocently.
The detective glances down at his watch. "2:12."
Shawn does a little quick mental math. The clock is off by two hours and fifty-two minutes. Interesting.
He strides over to the doorway, flicking the light-switch off without warning and sending the kitchen in darkness. "I can see – Mike is sitting in the living room, channel surfing. He stops on the weather network, learns about the approaching thunderstorm. That theme music – it's like the song that never ends! It's nice at first – trite, like elevator music – but the longer it goes on, the more demonic it becomes."
Shawn flicks the light on to see Lassiter's expression. "You haven't noticed that? Come on, have you never watched the weather network for longer than ten minutes?"
"Hmm." Lassiter inclines his head, granting the point.
Shawn grins before returning to his divining. "It's 9:08 PM. The room goes dark." Shawn stumbles forward into Lassiter, covering the detective's eyes with his hands.
He trips purposefully into the kitchen counter, hauling Lassiter along for the ride. "Mike figures the power's gone out. He decides to go and check the breaker box, but trips over furniture." Shawn passed a toppled footrest on his way in the door.
"He doesn't make it there – as he passes the doorway, he notices lights on upstairs. The rest of the house has power."
Lassiter sees where Shawn's going with this. "You're saying somebody cut the power to the rooms downstairs?"
Shawn shrugs. "The clock in the bedroom upstairs is working just fine, but this one is out."
They find the breaker box in a small room just off the kitchen, lending credence to Shawn's theory that Mike was killed while moving for it. Lassiter flips the box door open, eyes scanning the various labels. Experimentally, he tests the kitchen switch – watching the power to the room cut off, then flicker back to life.
Shawn is distracted by something that's caught his eye. Bending down, he can just distinguish a silver chain from the pattern of the floor tile.
Lassiter notices his piqued interest immediately. "What've you got, Spencer?"
Carefully, Shawn picks up the chain, holding it between two fingers as he lifts it off the floor. "A necklace," he observes immediately. Letting the chain pool loosely in his palm, he raises himself up to a standing position.
"Exactly like the one Colby is wearing." Right down to the teardrop-shaped glass trinket at the end. The flower inside is blue, the gemstone red-- but they are the same design. Given by the same person, most likely.
Lassiter holds his hand out for the evidence. He's wearing latex gloves – right. Shawn knows better than to go around touching things at crime scenes.
But the damage has been done now. Shawn holds the chain above his head by the tips of his fingers, letting the glass container dangle in front of his eyes, spinning slowly and twisting the chain into knots. The grain of rice falls past the gemstone, sliding in beside the flower, letting Shawn finally get a glimpse of the name. Dave.
Shawn passes the necklace off to Lassiter, who seals it in an evidence bag.
"So we know about Mike and Colby – but who's Dave?" Shawn muses aloud. "A third person? One who committed the murder, perhaps?"
Lassiter's face brooks a grim agreement.
Shawn coughs. "So, what now?"
Lassiter just looks confused. "What?"
"I mean, if this were a TV show – that would've been a commercial break. Somebody says something dramatic, and they fade to black. Speaking of which – hey, have you seen the Pepsi Joy It Forward commercials? Those are cool, right?"