Chapter 1: What If This Storm Ends
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?"
Chapter 2: The Sunlight Through The Flags
In the end, they decide to call Juliet. Well – Lassiter calls Juliet. Shawn calls Gus.
The phone rings twice before Gus picks up, answering as professionally as ever. "Burton Guster."
Shawn skips the greetings – Gus is always so worried about his minutes, after all. "We're definitely going to be able to pay off the Wii."
"Just the console, or the games as well?" That's what Shawn loves about Gus – he doesn't miss a beat.
"All of it. Lassie and I are totally going to solve this case before the road clears, and with the check from the Bocek case as well—dude, we can finally get Super Mario Galaxy." There's nothing quite like saving Princess Peach for the n-th time on a truly universal stage.
Shawn doesn't have to see Gus to know he's grinning. "Dibs."
"Nu-uh. No way. I'm the one stuck in this creepy old house with Lassie and a possible murderer – you are not getting dibs on Rosalina," Shawn protests.
"You already pick her half the time in Mario Kart! It's my turn."
"You might have a chance if you'd pick somebody other than Yoshi for a change--." Every single time they play, Gus picks the little green dinosaur and a cart – his friend won't even ride a virtual, video-game motorcycle. He refuses to try manual drifting, as well.
"You're always player one, though! And don't be hating on Yoshi!"
"Gus, Don't be delicious PB short of a PB&J. I would never hate on Yoshi."
"You know that's right," Guster's tone is smug. "So, tell me about the case. Juliet told me you showed up on Lassiter's doorstep with this suspect. Shawn, I can't believe you were willingly alone with this guy!"
"Oh, come on. Colby's harmless. He let me pick the music on the drive over and everything."
"You let a murder suspect in my car?" Guster's voice is deceptively calm. It's never a good sign when Gus is letting his anger simmer.
"Did you think we walked over? Besides – how is that any worse than Tancana?" The Blueberry has seen many interesting characters as passengers over the years. Their trusty car has served them well – whether it is holding suspects, making 11-point turns, or carting around the two founders of Santa Barbara's finest Psychic Detective agency; it holds a special place in Shawn's heart.
Gus is still unimpressed – but Shawn will wear him down later. Right now, he could use Gus' opinion on the situation. He launches into a thorough run-down of the case, giving his partner a brief outline of everything that's happened so far.
"It was the same style of necklace?" Gus questions when Shawn is finished.
"Exactly. Most likely given to them by the same person. I wonder if...?" Shawn trails off as a connection he'd missed previously falls into place.
"You wonder if what?" Gus prompts when his friend isn't forthcoming with the details of his latest revelation.
"Gus, is your laptop still in the car?" Shawn changes directions without answering Guster's question.
"Yes. It's under the driver's seat – I was entering the details for a few clients after finishing my route. Why?"
"Great. Be right back." He hangs up on Gus abruptly. Juliet and Lassiter are still discussing the particulars of the case, so he slips past the detective, calling over his shoulder, "I'm heading out to the car! Don't wait up!"
This time, he remembers to snag an umbrella on his way out the door.
Lassiter is waiting for him when he returns to the house. "You cannot just disappear without warning like that, Spencer."
Shawn shucks his jacket, folding the umbrella back up and setting it next to the other two on the stand. "I told you where I was going, Lassie!" He defends with a grin.
His sneakers squeak on the tile floor, so he sheds those too – lining them up neatly on the mat. He takes off for the living room with Gus' laptop tucked underneath his arm.
"You could have waited a minute for me to finish my conversation with Detective O'Hara so I could accompany you," Lassiter argues back, following. "Or have you forgotten about the murder suspect in the house?"
"Colby's still locked up," Shawn defends, detouring to check on their charge. Sure enough, the concussed man is still settled on the bed. "Colby? How are you doing in here?"
"I think the bleeding has stopped," the man offers up optimistically, referring to the bandaged wound on his forehead.
"That's good to hear! Just let us know if you need anything else," Shawn replies brightly, closing the door behind him. He turns to Lassiter. "See? No more Houdini impressions."
"But you don't believe he did it," Lassiter points out. "So there could be another perp with a weapon running around here."
Shawn really hates it when Lassiter is completely right.
"Fine, fine," Shawn waves the detective's concern off. "Bathroom buddies. I get it. Now, if you don't mind—" He changes directions, walking off again.
Lassiter rubs his temples, trying to soothe the oncoming headache. "Spencer!" He yells. "What did we just discuss?"
Spencer busies himself setting up the laptop on a writing desk in the living room while Lassiter paces the perimeter of the room.
Carlton had only brought up the possibility of another suspect in the house to win the argument with Spencer – but now the seed of doubt has been planted in his mind. The house was searched when the victim was discovered – but there is always the chance that somebody has snuck in since Spencer's arrival. Lassiter has been distracted trying to keep order with the psychic and his guest; he might have missed someone slipping in through a back entrance.
"Aha!" Shawn pulls an ethernet cord out from behind the desk, plugging it into a port on the laptop. "Mike uses this to get online with his laptop." Despite being a Victorian-era home, Tibor has fitted it with all the latest in modern accessories – a dishwasher, garbage disposal, and high-speed internet.
If he had managed to get a zip-line snack delivery system working, Shawn might never leave.
Mike's computer is not available for Shawn to peruse for clues, having been entered into evidence-- but Shawn has a different plan in mind now. He signs into his chosen instant messenger program, grinning when he spies that Gus is online, as requested through a hastily sent text message.
The request for a video chat is sent and accepted – it isn't long before Shawn can see Gus and Juliet smiling at him on the screen, the interior of the police station just visible in the background. "Hi, guys!"
Juliet gives a friendly wave back. "Where's Lassiter?" she asks.
Lassiter appears over Shawn's shoulder, greeting the two with a curt nod.
Juliet grins at her partner's usual blunt demeanour. "Alright, guys – I just received word that the lightning has finished, so we've sent a crew out to begin clearing the road. Early estimates say about 2-3 hours before you can pass."
Shawn grins. "Cool." He doesn't normally have deadline and time limits, but this seems rather exciting. Maybe he can convince Gus to let him put a countdown clock on the plasma for their next case.
"Let's solve this murder before then," he says cheerfully, drawing out the word 'murder' in an overly dramatic fashion. "Lassie, do you have that necklace?"
Lassiter passes him the sealed evidence bag. Shawn holds it up to the webcam, positioning the necklace through the plastic of the bag to show Gus. "We found this by the electrical box. The name inside is Dave."
Lassiter instructs Juliet to search for anyone with the name 'Dave' or 'Colby' relating to Mike Tibor. Shawn holds Gus' gaze, sharing a knowing look with his friend– Gus gives a subtle nod to indicate he will do some Googling and see if he can find out any additional information.
"Spencer, I need the room." Lassiter has his serious face on and everything.
Shawn is doubtful. "The whole room? Really?"
"It's an expression."
"Oh, so now that's a valid excuse. A week ago, 'Elementary, my dear Watson' is--."
"Did you know that line isn't Sherlock Holmes canon? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never actually wrote it--."
"Out. Now." Lassiter stands, crossing his arms over his chest calmly. Oh my. Shawn knows it's serious when Lassiter doesn't rise to the bait.
"But it's Gus' laptop!" Shawn half-heartedly protests. Lassiter strides forward, casually slinging an arm around Shawn's shoulders; spinning the psychic around as he walks them to the door.
"Five minutes, Spencer. Don't go far."
Lassiter doesn't need to look back at the screen to know Juliet is getting rid of Gus. He suspects she's having an easier time of it, though – Guster is usually easier the easier of the two to work with.
She doesn't know what Lassiter wants to tell her in private, but she's predicting and following through on his needs without question anyways. He is proud to call her his partner.
What he needs to tell her is the possibility of another hostile in this house-- without concerning either of the two police consultants.
Lassiter has just the worst feeling they're going to require backup before sunrise.
Shawn fumes for about thirty seconds before getting over it. Lassiter thinks he's being subtle about sheltering Shawn, but the idea that they are not alone in the house has already been brought up.
Still, it lingers in the back of his mind as he circles around back to the kitchen. He takes care to keep his footsteps light – Lassiter does not get concerned without good reason, after all.
This would've made an awesome horror movie, Shawn thinks. He is breaking all the cardinal rules – going off on his own, being alone with possible suspects, announcing his presence to everyone in the area -- but they are only forty minutes into a typical ninety-minute plot. The protagonist isn't in any real danger until the climax. Everybody knows that.
There's a coffee maker on the counter. Shawn sets it to brew a sorely needed pot. It'll just have to do until people come to their senses and start keeping smoothie-makers in their kitchens.
The crime scene photos are on the table where he left them. Excellent – Shawn needs to check something. He picks out the one of the victim, ignoring the pallor of his skin and the hole in his chest as he focuses on the key detail.
Mike Tibor had been sporting one of the rice necklaces as well, the same as Colby and Dave.
Shawn suspects the three of them are related in some way; believes a family member had given a necklace to each of them. Maybe Colby is Mike's father – that would account for the difference in age. That particular take on the crime twists Shawn's stomach, though. That somebody could kill a son, or a brother--.
Shawn can feel the pressure of a headache building behind his eyes. Too little sleep and too dark a subject matter. His pot isn't quite finished brewing, but there's enough for a decent-sized mug. He pours one to the brim, replacing the pot to let it refill. Lassiter could use some caffeine too.
He finds the milk, which turns out to be soy. That marks his previous deduction as incorrect –lactose-intolerant Colby could very well have been Mike's dinner guest.
However, Mike doesn't strike Shawn as somebody who drinks soymilk regularly. Then again, Shawn can't fathom anybody drinking soymilk regularly without coercion. Still, that suggests that Mike had been prepared for Colby – he had been an expected guest, not a surprising combatant.
The coroner's preliminary report suggests no sign of poisoning – no injuries other than the fatal gunshot wound to the chest, in fact – so Shawn feels reasonably safe sweetening his coffee with the soy milk.
He pulls the evidence bag with Dave's necklace out of his back pocket, slowly rotating it with the fingers of one hand as he sips his coffee.
With a sigh, he slips the bag back in his shirt pocket. He doesn't know what information is relevant yet – what clues he has or which ones he needs.
Shawn leans back in his chair, peeking around the corner to check that the hallway is still empty. Then he closes his eyes, bringing the fingers of his free hand up to his temple to coax his memory into revealing something – anything -- he can use.
He's missing something here; something he should be seeing.
He opens his eyes to darkness. Shawn glances over at the counter – at least where he knows the counter to be, since the room is pitch black. He focuses his eyes on where the microwave should be, looking for the time. The microwave he can't see, not even the neon glow of the clock, because--.
Because the power's been cut.
That's how Mike was killed, too.
The coffee mug slips from his hand. His drink spills across the floor as the mug shatters upon impact with the tile.
Shawn dives for the ground, crouching underneath the table as he overturns the chair he was sitting in earlier, using it to shield his side.
There are no forthcoming curses from Lassiter in the living room; no sign of the detective's continued presence at all, in fact. Shawn won't lie – a word from Lassiter would be pretty damn reassuring right now. The silence is a good sign, though – it means Lassiter has the need to be stealthy; is alive and lurking the hallways.
Shawn's not going to let Lassiter have all the fun. He can play ninja, too. Carefully, he crawls out from under the table, springing to his feet nimbly. He bobs and weaves on his way to the door – just because he can.
Really, it's a shame that he doesn't have any appropriate background music to go along with this. The theme from Mission: Impossible would suit his purposes quite nicely.
Shawn memorized the layout of the house in their earlier search for Colby, but the distances seem different in the dark. He feels his way along the wall as he moves out into the hallway. A door slams from somewhere off in the distance behind him, and he feels his heart beginning to pound out a steady rhythm in his chest.
There's that background music he'd been hoping for.
For a long minute, the house is quiet. The three (possibly-- quite likely, in fact -- four) occupants make no noise. Shawn curses every creak of the floorboards as he slinks across the floor stealthily.
Somewhere, the jackal switch is being flipped in Burton Guster's honour.
His hands swipe through empty air as he reaches the end of the hallway opening onto the living room. Light streams through the edges of the curtains, illuminating the room just enough for Shawn to get a picture of where everything is. There are more obstacles here, but they can serve as cover for him as well.
The distinct rustle of fabric reaches his ears. Shawn glances back the way he came.
A small creak, then a pause. Someone is here. Shawn presses himself against the wall, sucking in a deep breath in his best flat-as-a-pancake impression. He can just see the outline of the figure, searching the room carefully, before it comes to a stop directly in front of him.
Fingertips ghost over his arm. There's a brief moment as both parties recognize contact has been made, then cool fingers are wrapped around his wrist, yanking him off-balance.
Shawn reacts instinctively, lashing out with his free hand. His fist makes contact with the attacker's shoulder. The suspect drops Shawn's wrist as if burned, stumbling backwards – but he recovers quickly, lunging forward.
Shawn sees the first punch coming and dodges it easily. He's not so lucky with the second – it catches his cheekbone, pain blossoming out from the point of impact.
Not Lassiter then. Much as the detective has wanted to hit him, he would never follow through on his impulses. Shawn has been sure of that since the look in his eyes during the Drimmer confrontation.
If it's not Lassiter, Shawn has encountered their suspect.
Their murderer; comes the chilling clarification.
The attacker's arm shoots out, looping around Shawn's neck and chest. Shawn struggles to break free, but the man's (he feels reasonably safe deeming his attacker male. Although there is some leeway with the gender of names, he has never encountered a girl named 'Dave' before) grip is too strong.
Well, then. Only one thing left to do.
Shawn screams a scream that Gus (and/or grade school girls) would be proud of. The attacker's grip shifts instantly to cut off Shawn's airway. Shawn claws at the man's arm, seeking to free his throat and take in precious oxygen. He's unaware of the man's growl as his scratches draw blood.
Hurried footsteps on the ground signal the fast approach of another party. His attacker drops him, rushing off through another of the living room's exits.
Shawn scrambles backwards, not stopping until his shoulders are to the wall. The cool metal of a gun barrel is pressed to his temple. "Don't move."
But Shawn knows that voice; allows himself to sag backwards even as Lassiter's hand snakes out to grab his wrist, twisting it up and around his back.
"Sit." Lassiter pushes Shawn down on the bed beside Colby, who – they checked – is still handcuffed to the headboard, alright. The attacker is a definite third party.
The first order of business had been getting the lights turned back on.
Shawn quizzes Colby while Lassiter phones Juliet.
"Do you know where you are?"
"Uhm – a house?" Colby offers tentatively.
"Do you know how you got here?"
"You drove me here," Colby says slowly, as if Shawn is the one that should be answering these questions. "Did you hit your head?"
"No." Not technically, anyways. His face is sore where he'd been punched, but even that hasn't had time to bruise yet – although that could be the icepack he's using to keep the swelling down. "Do you remember being in this house before?" Shawn prompts.
"I don't think so..." Colby answers tentatively.
"Do you know the name 'Mike Tibor'?"
"Uhm – no?"
Shawn rubs a hand over his face, trying to erase the frustration and tiredness and the overall dull ache that accompanies every twitch of even one of his facial muscles.
"Do you know your name?" He asks after a minute.
"The details are a little fuzzy," Colby admits, sulking slightly.
Lassiter snaps his phone shut with one last barked order to O'Hara, turning back to the two walking wounded among them.
"Alright, listen up. I am going to look for this guy. You two are going to stay here." The last sentence is directly aimed at Shawn, with no attempt at subtlety being made.
Shawn rises off the bed immediately to protest. "I'm coming with you."
But Lassiter is unflinching in his determination. "No way. This guy got the best of you last time, Spencer."
"Oh, come on! That's hardly fair!" Shawn has all sorts of arguments to back him up. It was dark. Shawn had been caught off guard. He had needed to confirm the man's identity.
"You are a civilian, Shawn." Lassiter stresses the word 'civilian', tone softening with one of his rare uses of Shawn's first name. "An injured one, at that."
Shawn frowns – it's going to be much harder to convince Lassiter to let him tag along if the detective's motive for leaving him behind is true concern. "I'm fine!" he argues back cheerfully.
"People who are 'fine' do not almost pass out in the hallway," Lassiter snipes back.
"That was only because he choked me--." The rest of that argument dies on Shawn's lips. It was obviously the wrong thing to say, because Lassiter's eyes go dark and his body language morphs into something cool and steely.
He strides over to the side of the bed, unlocking the handcuffs around Colby's wrist. "You're off the hook," he informs the concussed man. "For now."
Shawn follows Lassiter's movements with his eyes, watching speechlessly as Carlton proceeds to secure the metal cuff around Shawn's own wrist, and then attaches the other half to the headboard.
"It's for your own good," he imparts quietly, not looking the least bit apologetic.
Lassiter moves for the door, stopping with his hand on the knob. For a minute, Shawn hopes he is going to reconsider this – but no, Lassiter refuses to acknowledge Shawn's protests, instead addressing his words to Colby.
"Lock this door behind me. Afterwards, do not open this door for anybody but me. Do not draw attention to yourselves. And most importantly – do not let Spencer convince you to free him." Colby nods solemnly, face perfectly serious.
Lassiter closes the door behind him, hovering outside just until he hears the confirming 'click' that signifies Colby has done as he asked and locked the door behind him.
Shawn waits about five seconds before pulling the previously confiscated paper clip out of his pocket.
Colby hovers at his side, unsure of what to do in this situation. "But Detective Lassiter said--."
"You let me worry about Detective Lassiter. Don't worry; you haven't broken your promise to him. You haven't let me talk you into anything," Shawn replies, fiddling with the end of the paperclip and the keyhole on the handcuffs.
He hears the click as the paper clip hits just the right spot. "Aha!" The cuffs fall free. He unwraps them from the headboard, slipping them in his pocket.
"Lock this door behind me." He echoes Lassiter's earlier words, and then frowns. "And do all the other things Lassiter said, too."
Shawn does recognize that this isn't the most well thought plan he's ever had. Lassiter is a highly trained officer and a skilled marksman -- quite capable of taking down a suspect on his own.
Some lessons die hard, though – the most important of which being 'back up your partner.' Tonight, Lassiter is his partner. Shawn will be damned if he lets him face off against a murderer alone.
Lassiter isn't the only one trained in the fine art of stealth, though. Shawn's childhood laid the groundwork for a stay at the Academy. Shawn may not have attended, but that doesn't mean everything he learned from his father was for nought.
He stops at the doorway to the living room, peering around the corner to check that he is alone. One of the chairs is askew – avoiding furniture had not been a top priority in the struggle between Shawn and his attacker.
The laptop is still on the desk, the power lights indicating that it is up and running, although the display has gone blank to conserve power. Shawn tiptoes over, swiping a finger across the touchpad to restore it to working order.
The conversation window with Gus is still open, although the two-way video chat had ended when the power (and internet) had been knocked out. Judging by the backlog of messages Shawn briefly skims, Juliet and Gus had become concerned when the connection was cut.
> [3:30] Burton Guster said: Shawn? Lassiter? Answer me! What's going on?
> [3:34] Burton Guster said: Shawn, if you don't reply, I'm erasing your save games on the Wii. All of them.
> [03:34] Burton Guster said: You realize that's all of your Mario Kart best times? Including the one you cheated to get and then couldn't replicate.
Shawn frowns. That's a low blow. It took him hours to perform that cheat correctly. He scrolls down to the end of the conversation window – there's over a page worth of similar threats from Gus, getting increasingly inventive.
> [3:57] Burton Guster said: Juliet just got off the phone with Lassiter. Are you okay, man? I don't know if you'll get this message – but call me if you do, Shawn.
The faint sound of footsteps on the floor above him reminds him of the situation at hand. He picks up the laptop, ducking underneath the desk to hide his presence to any passers-by.
The request to reopen the video chat doesn't have a chance to register on his screen before it is accepted. Apparently, Gus is still waiting for his response through the computer.
Both Juliet and Gus are crowded in front of the screen when the connection establishes. Shawn doesn't want to imagine what he must look like for Gus to curse, however mildly.
"Hey, guys," he greets them. "Need you to do me a favour."
"Shawn, are you okay?" Juliet is the one that manages to voice her concern first. "Carlton said--."
"The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated." He grins despite the way it strains at his sore cheekbones – Gus and Jules look like they could use a smile right now.
"That's not funny, Shawn." Gus is glaring, but the lines of tension around his eyes dissipate slightly. If Shawn is cracking jokes, he can't be too bad off.
"I'll keep that in mind for next time," he replies.
"What do you need?" Juliet asks at last. She looks eager, frustrated; it's probably killing her that her friends are in danger while she is stuck at the station, unable to help them.
"Lassiter is searching the house for this Dave guy. I'm going to help him. I'm also going to leave the connection open to give you guys a decent view of the living room – I need you to make sure nobody else comes in here, in case Dave is still moving around."
"Sure, anything," they chorus as one; then turn to each other and frown, as if wary of the sudden harmony.
He loves these guys and their quirks.
"Great." He checks to make sure the living room and hallway are still clear, and then slips out from under the desk. He sets the laptop on the table against the far wall, giving Gus and Juliet a full view of the living room and its three entrances; stretching the ethernet cable out to its full length.
"Text me if you see anybody pass by." Shawn reaches for his phone to check the battery, but discovers it missing. With a frown, he realizes he left it on the seat during his earlier run to the car. "Actually, text Lassiter."
They nod solemnly.
"Shawn!" Gus hisses as he turns to leave.
Shawn glances over his shoulder at his friend.
"Be careful," Gus says seriously. "If you get killed, I'll bring you back to life and leave you at your Dad's to deal with the aftermath."
"Right," Shawn says weakly. "Thanks, then. I think."
Shawn knows he is never going to catch up to Lassiter if he has to check every room as well. The detective already has a head start on him.
Besides, Shawn's only weapon is the umbrella he picked up from the stand in the foyer – he needs the element of surprise if he hopes to win this one.
He needs to be two steps ahead of both Lassiter and Dave, so he makes a few leaps in logic based on what he knows about both parties.
Dave has – so far – managed to avoid being seen. His motive is freedom-- escape, not attacking again. He came after Shawn because the fake psychic was getting too close to the truth.
Dave's primary objective is to evade Lassiter.
However, the detective – he knows he's dealing with a murderer. He knows he has two civilians elsewhere in the house. His primary objective is to protect them.
Lassiter's movements had been audible while he was on the first floor – he knows as well as Shawn that Dave is trying to evade capture. Giving their fugitive an idea of his location drives Dave away, up onto higher floors – leaving Shawn and Colby safely in the clear.
Carlton will be clearing rooms from the bottom floor up, driving their suspect onto the third floor.
Which means Shawn needs to get there first. He heads for the staircase, taking the steps two at a time.
Lassiter emerges from the staircase onto the third floor, face set in grim determination. He has searched the rest of the house, so he is now positive that Dave is hiding out up here.
His anticipation grows with each cleared room. There is nobody more dangerous than a trapped suspect with nothing left to lose. Unconsciously, he finds himself tightening his grip on his weapon.
This guy has already attacked once – managing to hit Spencer after cutting the power. For a brief, frightening moment after Spencer's ear-splitting scream, Lassiter had feared he'd killed the psychic.
Spencer is (relatively) fine, but the pink swelling on his face will leave a spectacularly coloured bruise. He had been shaky when Lassiter found him earlier-- it wasn't an exaggeration to say the psychic had almost fainted. Only Lassiter's quick movements had kept him from doing a face plant on the floor.
If that doesn't get Lassiter's blood boiling – apparently, that was caused by Spencer being choked.
He may not like Spencer and his antics, his arrogance, his lies – he may not like Spencer at all, in fact (although for some annoying reason he can't put a finger on, he does; considers the man a team member and a friend) – but that doesn't mean he wants to see him harmed.
That's Lassiter's job. Anybody else is going to have to go through him.
Lassiter doesn't regret handcuffing him to the headboard in the slightest – Spencer has a rather frightening propensity for getting himself into dangerous situations.
A hand wraps around Lassiter's mouth, pulling him against the wall. Carlton jerks his arm back into what should be his attacker's chest, aiming to knock the wind out of the person-- but his blow is dodged, as if it had been expected.
"Lassie, it's me," Spencer's voice is quiet, but unmistakeable.
Lassiter takes a deep breath, counts to ten, and tries desperately to think un-homicidal thoughts.
"Spencer," he grits out quietly. "No." He leaves it at that, because all of the other coherent thoughts he can form begin with 'you idiot' and end with Spencer in a holding cell – at least there, Lassiter can guarantee his safety.
"Yes," Spencer shoots back instantly.
"I am not about to let you go in there." Spencer may be able to talk himself into many things, but Lassiter is standing his ground on this occasion.
"I can solve the case," Shawn whispers. He can't, really – but he's sure he could figure something out on the fly.
"...then you can do it once this man is in custody."
Movement from the bedroom across the hall reaches their ears. Lassiter moves to cover Spencer, shifting into a defensive stance. "Stay behind me."
Lassiter kicks the door open, revealing the room. They cannot see Dave yet – but that doesn't mean he isn't hiding within the room.
"SBPD!" Lassiter yells. "Come out with your hands up."
"Really?" Shawn whispers in his ear. "I thought you were more original than that, Lassie."
This is Spencer's way of dealing with stressful situations, Lassiter knows. Everyone needs a coping mechanism. It's for this reason he doesn't turn around and shoot Spencer, instead.
Lassiter moves swiftly to the doorway when there is no response from their captive. Shawn holds his umbrella at the ready as Lassiter bursts into the room, yelling the traditional orders of 'drop your weapon', 'freeze', and 'hands on your head' – which seem rather contradictory when yelled in sequence, Shawn muses.
The suspect is nowhere to be found. Lassiter thoroughly searches the room, just to be sure – but Shawn already knows where Dave has gone.
The window is open, the curtains fluttering in the breeze. Shawn reaches the sill in two steps, peering out into the darkness just in time to see a figure finish sliding down the slanted roof to land on a wooden arbour.
Lassiter joins Shawn at the window just in time to see their suspect shimmy the rest of the way down the arbour to the ground.
"Great." Shawn just sighs.
In the distance, Shawn can see police cars approaching. "Oh, so now the backup arrives."
He turns to see Lassiter on the phone, instructing dispatch to relay orders to the responding officers – but knows it's too late for that.
Dave has escaped, too. The chances of finding him asleep on a bed in the next room are somewhere between 'slim' and 'none.'
They can hear the sirens of the arriving cruisers as they descend the stairs. The flashing red and blue lights shine through the stained glass of the front door (one of Mike's renovations as well), reflected on the wall as they reach the ground floor.
Two officers burst through the door, weapons drawn, shouting "Freeze!"
Shawn turns to Lassiter. "Huh. So maybe cliché is contagious." He raises his hands in the air anyways, palms facing outwards.
"Shawn Spencer?" The cop on the left nods at Shawn.
"That'd be me," Shawn grins.
"Sir, step away from the suspect."
Lassiter's jaw drops. Shawn glances from the dumbfounded detective to the officers that have not yet lowered their weapons, and back again. "You know this is Detective Lassiter? Head Detective Lassiter, with the SBPD?"
Lassiter reaches into his jacket pocket to pull out his badge, gaze hardening when he discovers it is not in its usual location. "I don't believe it. That bastard--."Dave must have stolen it when he'd taken his suit jacket off earlier.
"Sir, we encountered Detective Lassiter outside. He told us that Spencer and the suspect were holed up inside."
Lassiter massages his temples, trying to soothe the increasing headache. "Let me guess, he showed you his badge," he replies sarcastically.
Shawn bites his lips to hide the way the corners of his lips are twitching up. "Let me assure you boys – and girl," he adds hastily to accommodate the woman just entering, "—this is Detective Lassiter. The man you met earlier was an imposter."
Shawn pulls out his own badge – the unofficial laminated one with his picture and visitor's pass that Juliet made him. It gets the officers to lower their weapons, at least. However, they are still regarding Lassiter with a degree of wariness.
Lassiter just rolls his eyes, pulling out his phone. "You guys have met Detective O'Hara, correct?" They must be new to the station if they don't recognize Lassiter off the bat. But Carlton knows that Juliet makes a point of welcoming newcomers (with more reservation since the cupcake incident), so the officers should take her word for it.
Lassiter waits for Juliet to answer, then fills her in on the situation. "...so I need you to confirm for these two young gentlemen that I am indeed Carlton Lassiter."
Shawn is smiling so wide it hurts – but then again, that could be the slowly forming bruise on his cheek. With all her pent-up frustration about being stuck at the station, Juliet is sure to jump at the chance to do something to aid her partner.
O'Hara's voice carries to Shawn and Lassiter's ears easily as she chews the officer out, despite the five feet separating them from the man holding Lassiter's cell phone.
They encounter no further requests to confirm their identities.
"Spencer, with me." Now that paramedics have arrived to take care of Colby, Lassiter doesn't mind relinquishing control of the scene to another detective.
Shawn's hurried footsteps indicate the psychic is trying to catch up to him. Carlton slows only slightly, pausing to let Spencer collect his soaked jacket, squeaky sneakers, and Gus' laptop.
Lassiter intends to find Dave before he can drop off the radar, and that means organizing teams to search the forest.
"Wait, I--." Spencer protests as they exit the house, his footsteps slowing to a stop as they reach the driveway.
Carlton turns back to see what's holding the psychic up, frowning when Shawn's gaze grows increasingly more serious as he scans the various cars.
"Awh, crap," Spencer mutters at last.
"What?" Lassiter is confused.
"Gus is going to kill me," Shawn says miserably.
Lassiter frowns. "I believe I have dibs on that particular action. Guster can get in line."
"There's no point searching the forest for Dave," Shawn says at last. "He took the Blueberry."
"Spencer?" Shawn is uncharacteristically silent on the drive back to the station. Lassiter was hoping to have a word with him about the recklessness of his attempt to help apprehend the suspect, but he doesn't have the heart to lecture Spencer when he looks this out-of-sorts.
"Not now, Lassie. I'm trying to figure out how to break the news to Gus."
It's the quietest drive with Spencer that Lassiter's ever had -- excluding the one where the psychic got bored and fell asleep.
Lassiter finds himself wondering just how mad Guster is going to be.
Guster's voice is very, very calm.
This is a very, very bad sign.
"Let me get this straight, Shawn. You are telling me that my car – the car you borrowed without permission – has been stolen?" Lassiter is impressed, actually. He didn't think Guster was capable of quite this level of fury.
Shawn nods. "By Dave, after he climbed down the arbour like Spiderman. He must have grabbed the keys after he tried to kill me and got away before Lassiter could go all overprotective big brother on his ass." Lassiter is not sure he would summarize the events in quite that way, but that is essentially accurate.
Gus takes a step towards Shawn. Shawn takes a step back. "Gus, I didn't actually mean for--."
"Be quiet, Shawn."
Gus takes another few steps. Shawn mirrors them, making sure to keep the conference room table between him and his friend.
Juliet watches Spencer and Guster's antics with her usual amusement, sharing a knowing look with Lassiter. It's hard to believe these two have solved so many cases, some days.
"We're going to get it back, Gus." Guster and Spencer are circling the table, Gus on the offensive. Juliet is reasonably sure they would be chasing each other if they were outside.
"My car, Shawn. My company car."
"You never specified which comp--."
"Do you really want to finish that sentence?"
Shawn swallows noticeably, eyes flicking over to the door. Gus takes advantage of his friend's momentary distraction to slip around the side of the table, blocking Shawn's escape route.
He deliberately backs Shawn into a corner, taking the opportunity to survey the bruise on his cheek and red mark on his neck. When he gets close enough, he pulls his friend into a hug. "It could've been you he took, though."
Burton Guster would rather have his best friend over a car any day of the week. Even the Fridays he's really behind on his route.
Shawn pats his back fondly. "We'll bring in a hostage negotiator and everything, buddy. If he harms a dial on her dashboard--."
"Guys?" Lassiter breaks up the moment. "It is just a car. You know that, right?"
Shawn pulls away, turning to the Head Detective with a frown. "Lassie!" he begins indignantly. "She isn't just a car! She's a member of team Psych, our trusty getaway car, our mascot--."
"Right," Juliet cuts Shawn off before he can get started. "We'll do everything we can to get your car back safely," she placates.
Gus nods solemnly.
Shawn slaps him on the back. "Stay strong, buddy."
Shawn may have been teasing Gus about the Lo-Jack installed in his car before, but it is sure coming in handy now. Juliet finds Guster's car from the comfort of her own desk.
Lassiter and Juliet take off immediately. Shawn hums a theme song as they suit up-- grabbing one last sip of coffee (Lassiter), tying hair back (Juliet), and checking the clips in their service weapons (both). They bring two cruisers full of backup along with them, but Shawn could tell them now it won't be necessary.
The Blueberry has been stationed in a parking lot for the last ten minutes. It's not exactly the most inconspicuous car out there, so Shawn would bet money that their car has been abandoned in favour of something more suited to flying under the radar.
Lassiter, he suspects, has come to the same conclusion – the older man pierces him with a look just before they head out the door. "Stay out of trouble, Spencer."
It is a good lead – their only lead, at the moment – so the detectives hit the ground running with it, despite Carlton's reservations.
"C'mon," Shawn says to Gus once they leave. "Let's go solve this case."
"It is 5:43 AM -- even the sun is still asleep. We have no means of transportation – your bike is at the office and I walked over because – oh, that's right – you borrowed my car and got it stolen. You were attacked by some murderer. Really, Shawn? You want to solve a case now?"
"Yeah, you're right." Shawn replies. "Breakfast first?"
Gus shrugs off his coat as Shawn flicks on the lights in the office. A quick breakfast and a smoothie pit stop have refuelled their energy. With their trusty chariot being held hostage by the enemy, they'd been forced to walk over.
Shawn pulls the whiteboard out of the corner as Gus plugs in his laptop into the charger and boots it. They have work to do.
Crime scene photos are pinned up haphazardly – Shawn scribbles a timeline in the space under three overlapping photos that makes sense to him, if nobody else. Little stick figure drawings are added to elaborate on theories – Gus doesn't know what the significance of a milk carton is, but it seems to mean something to Shawn.
Shawn makes a pro-con list down the right-hand side of the board that seems to deal with varying motives.
"Why are we doing this?" Gus asks after a minute. "Aren't we pretty sure that this Dave guy is our murderer?"
Shawn frowns. "There are three aspects to a crime – motive, means, and opportunity. We're missing the first one."
He flips open the file folder, frowning when he comes across an unfamiliar sheet. "Juliet's search for Dave turned up something?"
Gus knows this already, but they hadn't had a chance to tell Shawn or Lassiter during all the action. He suspects Juliet will be filling her partner in now, but it had slipped Gus' mind to let Shawn know.
They hadn't been able to find Colby in the system, but Mike's brother – one David Tabor -- has a criminal record. It's mainly minor stuff – petty theft, breaking and entering, etc.
Shawn frowns. "This says he's 5'4."
"That guy I saw had at least three inches on me. Definitely taller than 5'4."
Gus can sense this case's easy resolution circling the drain. Maybe Shawn's fake powers are rubbing off on him.
The landline on Shawn's desk rings, but Shawn doesn't even look up. Gus sighs, walking over to his friend's desk to pick up the phone. "You've reached Psych. How may I--."
"Guster?" Lassiter sounds – incredulous, somehow.
"Is Spencer with you?"
"Yeah, he's right here. Did you--?" He doesn't get a chance to finish his question before Lassiter cuts him off again.
"Don't go anywhere. I'll be right there."
Gus frowns. He can't see what would bring Lassiter over to the office – if they'd recovered his car, they would be asking him to come to the station.
Well, there's one thing he can think of. "Shawn?"
His friend looks up. "You haven't done anything to piss Lassiter off lately, have you?"
Shawn stops to think about that for a minute. "Not in the last hour, hour and a half."
"Oh, will you stop hovering by the window?"
Gus turns to look at his friend, letting his fingers slide off the blinds and allowing them to snap shut again. "Detective Lassiter didn't say why he was coming."
Shawn spins in his chair and puts his feet off the desk. "Maybe it was to follow up on reports of this guy who's been creeping people out by peeking through his blinds."
"It's not funny, Shawn!"
Shawn is grinning anyways. "Whatever he wants to talk to me about is nowhere as serious as you're imagining it to be."
Gus turns back to the window just in time to see Lassiter pull up. "He's here." He frowns when a familiar pick-up takes the parking space beside Lassiter. "...and he's got your Dad with him."
Shawn's feet drop to the ground with a dull thud. "Hide."
He's on his feet before Gus can blink, scanning the office for hiding spaces. He discards under the desk as too obvious, behind the door as too potentially painful (the doorstop fell off last week and they have haven't finished the Cranium game that decides who has to fix it), and under the couch as too tight a fit.
"Here, shove me in the locker," Shawn states at last, striding over the row of lockers he put up a few years ago.
"What?" Gus yells.
"Keep your voice down!" Shawn hisses. "Come on, you know you've always wanted to."
Gus humours his friend, dropping his voice to a whisper. "I'm not shoving you in that locker, Shawn."
"Pretend I'm Jimmy Nickels!" Shawn argues back.
Shawn pushes Gus, waiting for him to recover before cocking an eyebrow in his best 'what now?' expression. Gus shoves him back.
"See, that's it. One more." Shawn has wedged one arm and one leg in the metal cavern.
The main door opens, Lassiter proceeding Henry into the office. By the time the detective reaches the partition dividing the desks from the waiting area, Shawn and Gus are sitting calmly at their respective desks.
"Hey Dad, Lassie," Shawn greets them cordially. "What brings you here?"
This is the last place he would expect to see his father at 7:00 AM in the morning. Henry's supposed to be fishing today – he should've been on the lake as Shawn and Lassiter were facing off against murderers.
Shawn doesn't always know what to make of his father. Their relationship is dysfunctional, at best. It's better now than it's ever been – they have dinner once a week, and Shawn regularly stops in to ask his advice on cases – but even that doesn't usually merit unannounced office visits.
"Spencer," Lassiter begins. "You haven't managed to get yourself kidnapped in the past hour and a half, have you?"
Shawn frowns. "Not that I know --."
Henry looks more relieved that concerned. Lassiter called Gus to ask about his best friend's status. Shawn doesn't have his phone on him, because he left it on the passenger seat in Gus' car. The car that their murderers stole.
"—Dave has my phone!" He summarizes his conclusions. Well, not Dave – Shawn just established that Dave Tabor is too short to be the guy that attacked him and fled the house. But Shawn doesn't have a name for this third party.
Henry holds his silence. That, more than anything, concerns Shawn.
Lassiter glances from father to son warily. "Guster, Detective O'Hara and I were able to retrieve your car."
Gus knows an excuse to leave when he sees one. "Great! Why don't we go pick it up now – I want to check her over for injuries." The two beat a hasty retreat out the door.
"Have you eaten yet?" Henry asks after a minute of awkward silence.
Shawn reaches behind him, casually sweeping the smoothie off the desk and into the garbage can. "Nope."
Henry nods. "C'mon. I'm making you breakfast."
Chapter 3: Daybreak
Shawn can't help but fidget as he sits at the kitchen table. Obviously not-Dave used his phone, called his father, and led Henry to believe that he had been kidnapped.
But Henry hasn't said a word about that. He hasn't said a word about anything, in fact – they rode in silence on the drive over, and now Henry is busy preparing breakfast.
Shawn sets the table as his father begins flipping pancakes. Good pancakes – giant chocolate chip ones that smell of untold delicious flavour – but that doesn't negate the point.
"So he called you, huh?"
Henry slams the spatula down and whirls on Shawn. "N o, I regularly call Detective Lassiter to follow up on ransom demands for the safe return of my son!"
He's yelling now – but that's okay. That's good, even. Shawn knows how to deal with Henry when he's angry. Shawn spent his teenage years exploring every facet of that mood; playing simple melodies as he experimented with what tone variations he could produce.
It's all of Henry's other emotions he doesn't know how to deal with.
This particular tone is Henry's concerned one. Shawn has been on the receiving end of it about once a week since he started up Psych with Gus – the warning to stop working a case involving high-grade drugs, the warning not to go poking around the station looking for a dirty cop, the warning not to work the Yang serial killer case. Come to think of it, they're usually warnings not to do something that Shawn goes ahead and does anyways.
But this is not Henry's general 'concerned' tone – the undercurrent of pure-fear-disguised-as-fury marks it as unique. Henry is concerned for his son about something Shawn has no control over.
This is the motorcycle tone. That particular debate has never been about Shawn's skills-- Shawn is an excellent driver. It's everybody else on the road that Henry doesn't trust.
"Relax, Dad. I'm fine."
"Really? Let me guess – you walked into a door to get that bruise on your cheek, right?"
"Actually, it was the door frame. There's a difference. You can't just go around blaming innocent--."
Shawn doesn't look up, instead choosing to sip at his tea. Usually he prefers his daily pick-me-up to come in the form of an ice-cold, highly sugary soda – but right now, he'll take anything he can get. It's been over a day since he actually slept and his headache doesn't seem to be leaving anytime soon.
It isn't until he feels the top of his turtleneck being pulled away that he realizes Henry's last word wasn't actually directed at him. His sweater must have slipped, showing the bruise on his neck from when he was choked.
Henry is quiet for a minute before his hand slips away. Shawn adjusts the turtleneck to cover the bruise. "That guy did this?"
There's no question as to what happened. Henry was a cop before he was a father – he knows exactly what that mark indicates.
Henry wants to rant and rave and curse until he's blue in the face. He wants to shoot something – someone, technically; a very specific someone. He wants to call Lassiter up and ask him how this was able to happen. He wants to order Shawn off this case and lock him up in his room to keep him out of it.
That someone could – that Shawn was – his son.
"We'll get 'em, Dad."
But he knows that not a single thing he could do would change his son's stance. Shawn is not consciously reckless – he's passionate; driven by his convictions. For all of the concern and the worry and everything else that Shawn puts him through – Henry wouldn't change him for a thing.
He's not sure he could, even -- Shawn has never let obstacles get in his way. After breakfast, he's going to leave, and he's going to go catch a murderer with Burton Guster and Carlton Lassiter and Juliet O'Hara. It's his job, as a psychic consultant with the SBPD.
This is not the life Henry imagined for his son – not the one he wanted, not the one he planned – but this is the one Shawn has forged. His son is happy, settled, and successful – and god, this isn't the way Henry imagined Shawn would solve crime -- but it seems to be working for him.
At the end of the day, that's all Henry can really ask.
"Just – be careful, Shawn."
He turns back to the pancakes, beginning to pile them on a plate.
"Is this – are we having a moment?" Shawn's tone is suspiciously light with shock and humour, imbued with a warmth that lets Henry know Shawn isn't mocking him.
Henry sets the plate full of food in front of his son, sitting down to the table with him. Shawn is grinning. "It feels like we're having a moment."
"Shut up and eat your pancakes."
Juliet sets the large cup of coffee down on her desk and stretches out the stiff muscles in her back. It was a long night, and today is shaping up to be no better. "Was that Gus I passed in the hallway?" she questions her partner.
"Guster is reuniting with his car," Lassiter informs her.
She can't help but grin – judging by the fuss Shawn and Gus were making about the stolen vehicle, she is sure that the reunion is a sight to behold. When she looks over at Lassiter, his lips are twitching in a direction that looks suspiciously like 'up', too.
After breakfast, Shawn lays out the problem he's having with the case. He skips over the details – they have four people working that angle. Shawn needs to know what they aren't considering.
Shawn has the abilities – the eidetic memory, the ability to read people, the deductive reasoning -- but he misses the perspective on occasion. Henry has a unique knack for restoring it.
"I don't know what clues I'm missing," Shawn concludes. "I don't think we have enough to solve the case – not yet – but I don't know what we need to figure out, either."
"Then go back to the beginning," Henry replies. "Start there, and figure out what you do have."
The beginning is a car crash. A lightning strike.
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.
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 body was discovered around 10. Estimated TOD from the coroner is about an hour prior to that."
Realization dawns slowly. "It doesn't make sense. The timeline. I – we started it with my arrival at the house. We should've gone back to the time of death!"
Shawn leaps to his feet. "I've got to run, I--." He doesn't finish that sentence. With a different perspective, his mind has hit the ground running. Time changes everything.
"Thanks for the breakfast!" Shawn calls over his shoulder on the way out the door.
Henry sips at his coffee as well, checking his watch. Five seconds later, Shawn's head pops in. "Think you could give me a ride back to Psych?"
"After my coffee."
"Daaad," Shawn whines.
Henry hides his grin. Some things never change. He drains the dregs of his drink, setting it on the counter and snagging the keys to his truck from the basket by the door. "Alright, let's go."
Shawn bites the cap off a blue whiteboard marker, spitting it out in the general direction of his desk. He takes the crime scene photos down, piling them on his desk.
'Go back to the beginning,' his Dad's voice echoes in his head. 'Figure out what you have.'
It's easier to sift through the facts when he lays them all out – scribbling notes in the margins of his timeline as he works forwards. Blue for timeline, green for theories, black for sketches. He uses the red to denote the clues that feel significant, because that colour's feeling left out.
He's been thinking of last night's events in too narrow a scope – this doesn't begin with a car crash. This begins with a murder – Shawn doesn't enter stage left until the beginning of Act II.
He attacks his motive chart from earlier with the eraser – they twist the theories to suit the facts. Until he's re-established what those are, this case is a blank slate.
Gus shows up around nine. The crime scene unit had needed to go through his car with a fine-tooth comb looking for any evidence their suspect might have left behind – but finally, the Blueberry is back in his possession.
He slips his keys in his pocket, reluctant to let them out of his sight for a long time. As he passes through the partition into their office area, he takes in the scene – the whiteboard covered in Shawn's multi-coloured chicken scratch, the crime scene photos arranged around Shawn in a seemingly random fashion (that will turn out to be quite logical if explained, Gus knows – but that is another story altogether), and his contemplative friend.
Shawn has his rolling chair out from behind his desk, pulled up close to the whiteboard. He's sitting cross-legged on the chair, propping his chin up with a fist.
Gus knows his friend has never been all jokes and dramatics. Shawn tones it down when he sinks his teeth into a problem. Before the visions come the detective work – and while Shawn livens that up, too; there comes a time when Shawn's mind drops to one track only and he focuses solely on the case at hand with an almost frightening degree of intensity. Crunch time.
"Gus!" Shawn spins on his chair to greet his friend. "I see you've got the old girl back! How is she?"
"Don't tell me I missed crunch time!" Gus looks forward to crunch time, actually – the thrill of contagious excitement that comes when they solve a case.
"Crunch time is not crunch time without food," Shawn shoots back. "You haven't missed anything yet. Pull up a chair, Gus."
Dutifully, Gus rolls his chair over to sit beside Shawn. He skims the scribbles on the whiteboard-- he's been deciphering Shawn's unique shorthand for over twenty years now. The frowney faces with 'x's for eyes indicate the proverbial 'death' of a suspect. Shawn has ruled out both Colby and Dave as the murderer, but there are some lingering questions surrounding both men.
Shawn thinks that Dave might lead them to the suspects they're lacking now, seeing as it was his necklace they found beneath the breaker box. There's a sketch of the necklace in the corner, but the detail marks it as a doodle rather than a clue. Shawn didn't draw it in the heat of the moment while following a train of thought – he added colour to the gemstone and flower.
It is relevant somehow, though – there's an arrow going from the necklace to Shawn's note about Dave. Gus can figure that one out for himself – their murderer had Dave's necklace on him and Shawn needs to figure out how that happened.
As for Colby – Shawn still doesn't know how and why the man ended up with their victim's truck and wallet. There's an inconsistency in the timeline there – Mike was killed around nine, but Shawn met up with Colby only two miles from the house just over three hours later.
This gives them a place to start investigating, at least. "Let's start by talking to Colby, then," Gus states after a minute.
Shawn grins back at him. "I've trained you well."
Gus punches him in the arm. "If anything, I've trained you – and just for that, you're not driving, by the way."
It is true that Shawn is the one with the case-solving abilities, but this business is a partnership for a reason. Shawn has the brilliant deductions, but Gus grounds Shawn; putting what they uncover into context.
While his friend could theoretically solve cases on his own, he would burn out sooner or later without Gus.
Colby is looking considerably better from the last time Shawn saw him. The makeshift bandage has been removed, the wound in Colby's forehead stitched up. He is sitting up in bed eating a Jell-O cup, more lucid now than he'd been at any point during their earlier time together.
"Colby, man! Glad to see you're feeling better." Shawn proudly presents him a pineapple with a red bow tied around it. "This is for you."
"Thanks." Colby accepts the fruit with a confused smile and a polite grin, which smooths out into something uniquely sincere. "For everything."
Shawn waves the underlying gratitude off. "Everyone deserves a pineapple while convalescing."
Gus nudges him in the side to remind him they're here for other things. Shawn has a tendency to drift off when he starts thinking about his favourite fruit. Or food of any kind, actually – Gus makes a point of not striking up conversations with Shawn on grocery store trips.
"We wanted to ask you a few questions about last night."
"I'm not sure how much help I'll be – things are still a little fuzzy," Colby says openly. "But fire away."
It occurs to Shawn that in Colby's confusion, he might not know what they're investigating. "Has anybody filled you in on... what happened last night?" He phrases it delicately, neatly sidestepping all mentions of the murder investigation.
The smile fades from Colby's face."Yeah, Detective O'Hara came by."
Shawn nods sympathetically. "How did you know Mike?"
"He was my stepson," Colby says after a long minute. "His Mom died a few years ago, and we stayed in touch. I came down to visit him for a few days. My rental car broke down, so he lent me his truck so I could get around town. I – he --." Colby bites his lip, turning his eyes to the ceiling.
Shawn turns away for a minute under the pretence of seeking out one of those delicious looking Jell-O cups. He finds one, of course – Shawn Spencer is precisely attuned to sugary treats; can sniff them out blindfolded.
"...and last night?" He asks after making a show of looking for a spoon.
"We – we were going to go out to dinner, but there was a thunderstorm coming, so Mike whipped something up. Chicken parmesan. He was a good cook," Colby says wistfully, sporting a bitter smile that Shawn can understand while hoping to never truly."
"Things get a little fuzzy after that. I remember watching the news... driving around... not much else, I'm afraid. But Mike--."
He doesn't need to say what happened to Mike. Shawn has seen the photos.
Gus' phone rings. His friend politely bows out of the room to answer it.
"Do you remember anything else? Anything at all?" Shawn prompts.
Colby shakes his head. "Just... being afraid. Running."
Shawn wants to ask him about the gun in the back seat. He wants to press for details about the missing hours. He wants to know how Colby ended up buried underneath a fallen tree trunk. But he's not sure if those questions would do more harm than good. Some things are not meant to be remembered.
"Shawn!" Gus pokes his head in the door. "That was Juliet. They've got Dave Tabor in custody."
Lassiter is already in the interrogation room with Dave when they arrive. For now, Shawn is content to just watch. He wants to see how Dave reacts to being accused of murder – for the detectives do not yet know he is innocent.
Juliet greets them with a wan smile that suggests her patience has worn thin. "He was arrested across town for trying to rob a jewellery store. Thought he might get lucky, since the storm knocked out the power."
They turn to watch the drama unfolding in the room.
"Where were you between nine last night and five this morning?" Lassiter opens with.
"At home, asleep." Dave is a short, mousey-looking man. He reminds Shawn of Lying Ryan – the sort that would embellish or invent a story to hide behind.
"With nobody to confirm that, I suppose?"
"No, I guess not."
"You want to know where I was?" Lassiter asks innocently. Dave opens his mouth to respond and Shawn winces. The question was without a doubt rhetorical – answering it will read to the detective as flippancy. Lassiter's patience is already running thin – like Shawn, he is running on very little sleep.
"Investigating a homicide," Lassiter says without preamble. "Your brother was found murdered in his home last night. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"
Dave turns grey, the colour draining from his face. "Mike?" he whispers. "I – no. Of course I don't know anything about that!"
"Really?" Lassiter drawls. "Because we found a necklace belonging to you at the scene."
"I – I don't know how that could have happened."
Lassiter flicks open a file folder, pretending to skim the contents he has already poured over in detail as he begins to stroll around the table. "You have a record, I see. Shoplifting, petty theft, breaking and entering." He sets the file down beside Dave. "Did you want some money from him? Is that it? You thought you'd hit up your brother for some cash – but he refused. Things got heated."
"I'm telling you, I don't know what you're talking about."
"Your brother is dead," Lassiter says bluntly. He drops the evidence bag with the rice necklace on the table. "Your necklace was found at the scene. You want to know what that tells me?"
"I don't know how my necklace got there." Dave repeats, wringing his hands. Shawn smiles to himself. That particular nervous tick is what started this all – he'd read guilt off a TV interview and made Lassiter suspicious enough to be brought in for questioning.
Shawn's moving before he can stop to think, passing through the hallway before barging into the room. "Yes, you do," he directs the statement at Dave.
Lassiter spins around to yell at Spencer, infuriated. Having an interrogation interrupted disturbs the tension of the room – it serves as a distraction, giving the suspect time to recoup and avoid the question.
But Dave responds immediately, refusing to make eye contact. "N—no. You're mistaken."
Lassiter springs upon the reaction. "Look me in the eyes and say that."
"It was your necklace they found, but you weren't there," Shawn follows up with.
Dave's head shoots up – he nods vigorously. "Exactly."
Lassiter glances over his shoulder at Spencer, who has shifted positions to lean up against the wall casually. "But you know how it got there – don't you, Dave?" Shawn prompts.
Dave looks rather taken aback. "Who are you, anyways?"
Shawn pastes on one of his casual-but-confident smiles that simultaneously puts suspects at ease and conveys the feeling that he can see everything they're hiding. "Shawn Spencer, the department's Psychic."
"Like crystal balls and stuff?"
Shawn frowns."You have heard one too many Psychic stereotypes, I see. That's amateur stuff – what I do is much more complex." He puffs his chest out, looking proud.
Lassiter rolls his eyes. "If we're done with the introductions – would you care to answer the question, Mr. Tabor?"
Dave frowns. "Alright! I might have... given the necklace to some guys."
"Given or lost?" Lassiter questions.
"It's – I was part of a group planning to rob an electronics store across town. We didn't!" he adds hastily. "The plan fell through. The guys were pissed-- they were going to come at me! So I might have... told one of them about my brother's house. Secluded, lots of valuables, etc..."
"So you sold your brother out?" Lassiter summarizes. "Classy of you."
"He wasn't supposed to be there!" Dave snaps.
"That doesn't explain the necklace," Shawn follows up.
"My brother has – had, I guess -- always helped me out when I needed it. A place to stay for a little while, meals... that sort of thing. Whenever I dropped by, I always used to leave my necklace on the table to let him know I was in the house. The guy thought that if Mike found that when he got home, he wouldn't be suspected in the robbery..."
Lassiter sets a notepad down on the table, sliding it across to Dave. "I need a name."
"I don't have one!"
"Because he doesn't exist?"
"It wasn't exactly an 'exchange personal information' kind of arrangement, if you know what I mean. I knew this guy by Rusty – he was pretty tall..." Dave goes on to paint a picture of the man. It's a fairly generic sketch, but Shawn already has what he needed out of this conversation.
Juliet is waiting for them when they exit the interrogation room. On the walk back to her desk, she presents both Shawn and Lassiter with a list the psychic casually recognizes as cell phone records.
Shawn skims it briefly, intending to commit each number to memory – until he realizes he recognizes these. All of these – these are his cell phone records, in fact.
04/09/09 – 12:05 AM – Call from: Burton Guster (Duration: 0:30)
04/09/09 – 12:20 AM – Call to: Burton Guster (Duration: 10:40)
04/09/09 – 12:31 AM – Call from: Burton Guster (Duration: 1:32)
04/09/09 – 12:33 AM – Call from: Burton Guster (Duration: 0:30)
04/09/09 – 12:34 AM – Call from: Burton Guster (Duration: 0:30)
04/09/09 – 12:36 AM – Call from: Carlton Lassiter (Duration: 0:30)
04/09/09 – 12:38 AM – Call from: Juliet O'Hara (Duration: 0:30)
04/09/09 – 12:51 AM – Call to: Juliet O'Hara (Duration: 4:21)
Shawn's phone plan of unlimited talk and text is quite possibly the best choice he has ever made.
"We checked your cell records to see if these guys made any other calls on your phone," Juliet explains. "There was one call to a disposable cell phone – nothing with a name attached, of course," she summarizes wryly. "We're going to call your phone in about five minutes, see if we can triangulate the signal."
"My poor phone is involved in nefarious dealings," Shawn muses sadly. "We'll have to lock it up and throw away the key."
Gus rolls his eyes. "Shawn, you've had five different phones in the last three years."
"I have not!" Shawn protests.
Gus begins to list them off on his fingers. "There was the one that shorted out when we went for a swim while chasing Tancana--."
"—apparently waterproof doesn't cover being submerged in the ocean," Shawn brushes it off.
"—the one you dropped at the museum," Gus continues.
"All the King's Horses and all the King's Men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Duck tape didn't help, either."
"—of course, the one that fell out of your pocket when we--."
"Gus!" Shawn says brightly, clapping a hand over his friend's mouth. "I'm sure our favourite detectives don't need to hear about that. They're busy setting up an important trace."
He drags his friend into one of the hallway's alcoves. "I thought we agreed never to mention that incident again!" he whispers furiously.
"... and if I remember correctly, you promised not to--."
"Yes, yes – and I'm sorry about that. But remember--."
"—that doesn't make up for it!"
"Gus, would you just--."
The discussion dissolves from there, turning into overlapping whispered arguments. "I'll let you be player one the next time we play Mario Party," Shawn proposes at last.
Gus nods. "Deal." They bump fists, and return their attention to Lassiter and Juliet as if nothing ever happened.
"Right then," Juliet hides her smile, hoping to get the conversation back on track. "We're running ballistics on the weapon you found in the truck, Shawn," she explains. "But we expect it will match the bullet in Mike."
They move over to Buzz McNabb's desk, where he is ready and waiting to trace the call.
Buzz greets him with his usual good humour, not quite managing to hide his amusement over the idea that it is Shawn's cell phone they'll be tracing. "I always figured I'd be doing this one day," he jokes, "only with you on the other end of the line."
Shawn grins back at him. "You still might."
Lassiter holds up the phone, preparing to dial. "I'll do the talking, Spencer," Lassiter warns him. "You're only here to observe."
Shawn nods; eyes wide in his best 'innocent' look. They call from Juliet's cell phone so it will show up on the phone's caller ID as 'Jules' and not 'Detective O'Hara.' The phone rings once, twice, and then – "Yeah?" comes the rough voice. Bingo.
Gus watches McNabb's screen, keeping track of the tracing program as it initiates and begins to narrow in.
Lassiter opens his mouth to speak, but Shawn cuts him off.
"Hey Shawn," he begins in his best imitation of a girl's voice. Juliet turns to look at him, an expression of disgust written on her face – her voice is nowhere near that high!
"With your awesome hair. Ooh, I just want to run my fingers through it." Gus smacks him in the arm. Shawn glances over at Buzz, but the young officer motions for him to continue talking.
"Are we still on for tonight?"
"Look, lady—," the guy on the other end of the line cuts in.
"I've got the chocolate, you bring the cool whip!"
There's a good five seconds of silence – Shawn has a knack for rendering people from all walks of life speechless. "Last Saturday was so much fun," he continues. "You remember that thing with the--."
"You must have the wrong number," the guy mutters quietly, hanging up.
Shawn glances over at his friend to take in their varied reactions. Lassiter is scowling, of course – he had explicitly ordered Shawn not to say a word. Gus rolls his eyes – he's used to Shawn's antics by now. Shawn is pleased to note the faintest hints of a blush on Juliet and Buzz, though.
"Did you get it?" Lassiter questions McNabb.
Buzz turns back to his screen. "Within a three-block radius."
Juliet notes the location, getting ready to move. Shawn frowns. "It's not him."
Lassiter pinches the bridge of his nose, trying to quell his rising frustration. "Why not?"
"Who answers a stolen cell phone, really?" Shawn plucks the list of calls made and received on his cell off Lassiter's desk. "He made two calls after he made off with the car – one to my Dad and one to the disposable cell. Both within thirty minutes of each other. Nothing since seven though, and it's approaching noon!"
The clock on the wall reads 11:32, but the specific time doesn't have quite the same emphasis. Lassiter sighs, rubbing the back of his neck. He wishes Spencer didn't have this annoying tendency to be right all the time.
"Tight knot, right under the shoulder blade?" Gus questions.
Lassiter turns to Guster, surprised. "Yeah. How'd you know?"
Juliet returns with her gear. "You ready, Carlton?"
Lassiter checks his hip pocket to make sure his newly-returned badge is where it should be. He's been wearing it for so long that he feels oddly vulnerable without it. It had been found on the passenger seat in Guster's car.
He turns back to his partner. "Yeah, let's go."
When Gus turns back to his friend, he finds Shawn frowning. "Buzz," he begins slowly. "You guys keep recordings of 911 calls, right?"
"That we do," Buzz confirms.
"You said Mike's murder was called in by his housekeeper, right? Do you think I could listen to that call?"
Shawn doesn't get it the first time. Or the second. Not even the third – curse that blasted idiom. On the drive back to Psych, he toys with the thumb drive Buzz put the recording of the 911 call onto for him.
He has some of the pieces – maybe 75%.
Technically, his involvement in the case should be unnecessary at this point in time. There's no debate over who killed Mike Tabor – what remains now is finding the suspects to arrest.
But he can't shake the feeling that they haven't solved this case yet – not completely. There's something he's overlooking – he can feel it in his bones.
He goes through what he knows about the case.
Dave tipped two thieves off to Mike's house – what should have been an easy target to rob. Mike and Colby were supposed to be out to dinner. Only the thunderstorm kept them inside.
"You know when Juliet has a spare minute, she's going to be mad about your 'girl voice'," Gus jokes.
Shawn listens to the recording of the call just once more, filtering out the words and focusing solely on the caller's tone of voice. That isn't a girl's voice, either. It's somebody imitating one, to hide their identity.
Mike and Colby were supposed to be out to dinner. Only they were home.
Shawn leaps to his feet. "Gus, I've got it!"
But jumping isn't enough to quell the rising need to go-go-go because now that he has it – he has it; so clear, how could they possibly have missed this? – the urgency of the situation presses down on him.
"We need to get to the hospital!"
Gus moves to grab his keys, but he is too slow – too slow – and Shawn can't wait. He is two steps – ten steps – ahead, moving in a high gear that is impenetrable to the slowing forces of 'common sense' and 'patience.' He's out the door before Gus can blink, calling over his shoulder, "I'll meet you there."
By now, Gus is used to his friend running off without warning. Shawn is brilliant, but hasty – he acts first and relies on the 'thinking' part of the equation to bring itself up to speed once he's out of the starting gate.
Shawn's motorcycle revs to life. Gus locks the door to the office and turns around in time to see his friend tighten the strap on his helmet and gun the engine before driving off.
Burton Guster is used to having to play catch-up with Shawn Spencer. It is an unfortunate disadvantage of being the best friend to a man who functions on too many competing levels. This doesn't usually bother Gus – for all that Shawn does to annoy Gus, it cannot hold a candle to the benefits of their friendship. There is nothing quite like having a best friend who knows you better than you know yourself.
While Shawn was figuring out the world, Gus was figuring out Shawn. The knowledge of each other goes both ways – Gus knows what every hand gesture, every word choice, and every tone of voice means. So if his heart beats a little quicker, and he moves a little faster – this is Gus' version of being psychic. Hyper-observant. Using the skills he developed as a child.
Shawn had been serious, worried, and impatient. Which means one of two things – somebody is in grave danger, or Shawn is about to do something heroic-but-stupid.
Who is Gus kidding? This is Shawn Spencer.
It means both.
While zipping along roads at speeds of 50mph (80kph) with little more than a few pieces of metal between his body and the ground, it is rather hard to think. Shawn has spent years testing this phenomenon out -- after committing the details of every scene to memory became second nature, being able to see a car without instantly reciting the license plate number is unbelievably refreshing.
He leans into the turn on a sharp curve, darting through traffic when the road straightens out. He needs to get to the hospital as soon as possible – their concussed friend Colby is in danger. Whether he knows it or not, he was there when Mike was murdered.
He had been the 'housekeeper' who called 911. He had been there when Mike was murdered. He had seen his stepson's killer.
Shawn knows what he was missing about the case, now. It had been a robbery – one that took a turn for the worse when Mike surprised the would-be robbers by being home. After he had been murdered, the robbers went after Colby.
Colby had fought back, though – managing to wrangle the gun from the killers. He'd taken off in Mike's truck. Being unfamiliar with the town and extremely distressed, he'd driven around for a few hours, quite lost.
The killers had taken off without stealing anything, spooked by the murder. Once they realized they'd left the necklace behind as evidence, they'd come back to retrieve it – in the process learning that the sole witness was back; one they needed to take out.
Shawn hopes Gus called Lassiter and Juliet – he is still without a phone. He'd thought this one was going to go the distance, too. The phone before this one had almost broken the current record of 11 months before it had fallen out of his pocket during the incident that he and Gus don't talk about. Well, that Shawn doesn't talk about. Gus went against the bro-code and Shawn will shortly be erasing episodes of 'Survivor: Is It Over Yet?' on the TiVo to make room for Roadrunner cartoons in retaliation.
He hastily parks the bike in the hospital's visitor parking lot (it would be just his luck to be ticketed anywhere else and his motorcycle has already been impounded once too much, thank you!), barely remembering to snag the keys out of the ignition before he hits the ground running in a dead sprint.
A nurse snags his arm on his way in the door. "No running in the halls."
Shawn stops, incredulous. "This is a matter of life-and-death!"
She doesn't relent. "It certainly will be if you fall and break your neck."
"Of, for the love of--." He slows to a speed-walk, well aware that he looks ridiculous as he moves as quickly as he can while keeping one foot on the ground at all times. The nurse's approving nod doesn't make up for the amount of awkward hip-shaking this involves.
"Colby!" he bursts into the room he visited earlier, scanning it for the object of his concern. Colby looks up, confused.
"Hey, Shawn. What are you doing here?"
"You're in danger! We need to get out of here, ASAP."
Colby frowns. "But I haven't finished my Jell-O cup," he says mournfully, holding up the indicated object.
"Then bring it with you! This is more important than Jell-O!" Shawn does a double-take, as if he can't believe those words just came out of his mouth. Curiously, he peers over. "What flavour is that? Strawberry?"
"Cherry," Colby crows happily.
"Hmm." Shawn inclines his head with a contemplative look, granting the point. "Come on, hurry up!"
He helps Colby up and out of bed, thankful there are no machines or IVs to detach – he may not become nauseous at the sight of blood like Gus does, but neither is he entirely comfortable with it. This is much easier than the last time they were in this position, now that Colby can walk under his own power.
They shuffle to the door. Shawn glances both ways to check for any suspicious characters before signalling that it is safe to move.
"Hold it right there!"
They freeze on the spot. Shawn slowly turns to see the nurse from before standing behind them with her arms crossed, one foot tapping impatiently. "Where do you think you're going?"
Colby points an accusing hand at Shawn. Shawn points an accusing hand at Colby.
"Okay, look – this guy witnessed a murder even though he doesn't remember it, and now those same murderers are coming back to get him too," Shawn rambles. "They almost got me earlier on their way to him and it was kind of painful, so I'm sort of hoping to pre-emptively avert that for him--."
The nurse holds up her hand to stall the rambled explanation, hoping that the man in front of her will pause to take a sorely-needed breath during the reprieve. "Mr. Denniston cannot leave unless he's been checked out."
"I – what?" Shawn exclaims. "Are you kidding me?"
As it turns out, apparently she is not.
"Shawn!" Gus skids to a stop upon spying his friend bent over the counter at a nurse's station. "What's going on?"
"No running in the halls!" The nurse behind the desk mutters disapprovingly.
Shawn looks up, mouthing 'she got me too!' when the nurse's back is turned.
When Colby is finished signing the last form, Shawn presents it to the nurse with a flourish. "We're good?" he confirms.
"Just peachy," she replies with a smile. "Would either of you gentlemen like a sucker?" Colby shakes his head 'no', holding up his Jell-O cup to indicate he already has a snack. Shawn accepts a yellow one with a charming smile.
"Shawn!" Gus' voice rises in pitch, demanding an explanation.
"We need to get Colby out of here," Shawn explains on the fast-walk through the maze of hallways leading back to the entrance. "The guys that killed Mike are coming back for him."
Gus glances over at the quiet, bespectacled man. He seems to be taking the news that he's being targeted by killers remarkably well. Maybe there's something in the Jell-O.
"Juliet and Lassiter are on the way," he relates to Shawn. "I called them before I left."
Shawn nods distractedly as he presses himself up against a corner, peering around cautiously to check that the way is clear. Gus rolls his eyes, striding out into the hallway confidently.
"Am I the only one taking this seriously?" Shawn hisses at him.
"Colby's been here all day! He's not in any more danger now than he was the last time we were here!" Gus fires back.
A large man of considerable bulk emerges at the other end of the hallway. Shawn catalogues his features, running them against the description that Dave was able to give them. "Oh, really?" He points at the man.
"You don't know that's him!" Gus counters.
As if on cue, the man spots them. His eyes narrow in recognition when they land on Shawn and Colby. He begins striding towards them.
"Oh, really!?" Shawn repeats in a sarcastic squawk, beginning to pull Colby along as he takes off in the other direction.
Spencer pulls a gurney out behind them as they run, hoping to block the killer's path. The three of them burst through the doors into the parking lot, moving for the car. Their killer is not far behind, and gaining fast. Shawn makes a judgement call, ducking left where Gus and Colby move right.
"What are you doing?" Gus yells. "We discussed this. No heroics, Shawn!" Gus is sick of being scared senseless for his friend's life.
But Shawn doesn't listen, hanging back to catch the killer's attention. Gus curses – stupid, stupid Shawn – but helps Colby into the car anyways.
"Who do you really want to go after?" Shawn projects his voice to reach the man. "The amnesiac who doesn't remember your face – or the psychic that could actually identify you?"
The man swerves accordingly, chasing after Shawn. With a half-crazed, adrenaline-fuelled whoop of excitement, Shawn hops on his motorcycle and speeds off. Their killer makes for his own vehicle, tearing out of the parking lot after the psychic.
Gus dials Juliet. "Shawn's being an idiot. Car chase minus the protective features of a car. Hurry." Maybe Shawn's rubbing off on him, he figures – because he finds himself hanging up on Juliet before she can get a word in and pulling out of the parking lot to follow in the footsteps of his friend. His stupid, stupid friend.
Somebody is in grave danger, and Shawn is doing something stupid-but-heroic. Two for two.
Some days, Burton Guster really hates being right.
Shawn knows these roads like the back of his hand – the intricate pathways strewn across the land, linking the city together. Rush hour is still a ways off, but Shawn avoids the main roads and their hustle and bustle of heavy traffic anyways – not wanting to put other drivers at risk.
Gus is most likely calling him unbelievably stupid right now. He's probably right, too. Initiating a car chase on wet, slippery roads without the protective shell of a car surrounding him just might earn him a Darwin Award.
A gunshot whizzes by his left ear – Shawn instinctively swerves right, glancing over his shoulder at the man chasing him.
Well, that's not fair. Rusty back there has an SUV where Shawn has a bike. He has a gun where Shawn is without his USB-powered rocket launcher.
What Shawn needs is to level the playing field. What he needs is cover.
Shawn brakes sharply just beyond a tight curve, pulling off onto the shoulder of the road. He has just a few seconds before he becomes visible to the SUV, but that's all the time he needs. A break in the trees reveals a forest path.
It isn't as discreet a hiding place as he'd like, and there will be absolutely no doubt as to where he went. Anything beats the current situation, though. He hops off the bike, leaving the helmet to rest on the seat.
The rumble of the SUV has never quite faded out of earshot since they tore out of the hospital parking lot, but the growing volume is of increasing concern. Shawn peers around the corner curiously in time to see the front bumper come into view. He locks eyes with the driver for a brief second; in that instant, wholeheartedly certain that this is the man who attacked him earlier.
The attacker's grip shifts to cut off Shawn's airway. Shawn claws at the man's arm, seeking to free his throat.
Shawn ducks into the bush. A bullet carves a chunk out of the tree to his right, the bark splintering upon impact. He picks up speed, hurtling himself along the path with little to no regard for the branches swiping at his arms. The SUV skids to a stop beside his motorcycle, Rusty (for lack of a birth name to refer to the suspect by, Shawn is mentally addressing him as Dave had) quick on his heels.
If this comes down to a matter of speed, Shawn's not sure who will win. His natural athleticism may not be enough to conquer Dave's brute strength. He needs to change the rules of the game – turn this into a battle of wits. Those he can usually survive in long enough for the cavalry to arrive.
He's not sure what sort of experience Rusty has in a forest setting, but Shawn made up half the membership of Troop 101 of the Junior Bobcats. With Henry Spencer as his troop leader, this means something.
Shawn slows down, turning his gaze upwards and taking the time to survey the strength of the branches above his head.
Rusty is not subtle in his movements, making no attempt to quiet his footsteps as he follows the trail Spencer inadvertently left behind. That works just fine for Shawn, who keeps an ear out to judge the distance between them.
The lower branches appear to be rotting – a quick glance at the trunk reveals the reason for that. Large gouges in the neck of the branch leave them looking like Nearly Headless Nick from Harry Potter (alright, so maybe Gus had sucked him into a marathon of the series with the promise of free red vines.)
But height is safer than distance – it gives him perspective and the element of surprise. So Shawn leaps up to grab one of the sturdier-looking branches a foot above his head anyways, hoisting himself up onto it.
Another branch sticks out of the trunk at waist-level. Shawn presses a hand against the trunk to help keep his balance as he simply steps onto it. Glancing down, he estimates the distance between him and the ground to be about eight or nine feet – not high enough to hide his presence completely.
This branch sags underneath his weight, eventually settling into a disconcerting vibration that Shawn recognizes from his tree-climbing days. It means the branch isn't sturdy enough and may not be able to support his weight. An ominous creak has him scrambling to find a better branch further up.
The nearest he can spot is one just above his head. He pulls his body up to that level like he's doing a chin up, scrambling to get one leg wrapped around it for stability's sake. But he has to move slowly now, taking care to be quiet – Rusty is getting closer. The snapping twigs and hollow-sounding roll of kicked rocks grow louder by the minute.
Rusty appears on the scene below him, scanning the area for the psychic. Shawn freezes with both arms and one leg spooning the branch, hanging upside down like a bat.
For a long minute, they exist in a stalemate.
Rusty cannot leave until he finds Shawn. Shawn cannot leave until he's sure not to be found.
Alas, it seems the elements decide to break the standstill. A low creak begins to emanate from the tree branch Shawn is hanging onto. He finds himself losing height as the branch bends in the hopes of accommodating his weight – but it is to no avail.
Rusty looks up. The purple of Shawn's polo shirt is easily spotted in the trees. The branch gives out before the weapon can be raised, snapping off from the trunk sharply. All of Shawn's muscles involuntarily tense, preparing for impact. The leaves fly by in an alarming blur – but there!
Shawn's arm shoots out to grab the branch he stepped onto earlier. He can't quite muster up the energy to clamber up onto it, so he holds on for dear life. The other branch wallops his side as it plunges past him; dead set on destruction.
It lands on the head of his would-be killer, dazing him slightly. It's not enough to knock the guy out, though. Rusty shakes off the blow, taking a minute to regain his bearings and locate Spencer.
Shawn squirms, trying to gather the strength to pull himself up. He'll take a shaking branch over a gun-wielding maniac any day. "Wait!" he cries once Rusty raises his gun. "Don't you want to know how I figured it out?" he asks curiously. The bad guys always want his wrap-up speech.
The expression this merits is nothing less than incredulous. Rusty spares a minute to shoot – pun entirely frightening – Shawn an odd look, as if he is only now contemplating the idea of the psychic being utterly insane.
"Not really," Rusty replies bluntly, aiming the weapon at Spencer with deadly precision.
"No!" Another figure bursts onto the scene. Gus is frantic and concerned, but determined.
Shawn breathes a sigh of relief, which is shortly quelled. Gus didn't need to be brought into this situation. He'd been hoping Rusty would forget all about the role Guster in played in helping Colby escape, actually.
Shawn may drag Gus into danger on a daily basis, but he is usually in control; harbouring an advantage of some sort – priceless information, a remarkable ability for convincing people of things, two gun-toting detectives at his back. Here, he has no advantages and no idea when Lassiter and Juliet will arrive.
"Gus!" he hisses. "Not that I'm not happy to see you, but..."
"I'm here to save your ass, Shawn!" Gus snaps. "Somebody needs to."
"That's really rather sweet, Gus. What with your fear of bad guys with guns and everything." It gives Shawn a warm fuzzy feeling inside. It's only too bad that the feeling doesn't measure up to the cool wave of fear that has washed over him.
"It's called a self-preservation instinct," Gus argues back.
"Is that the one you always cite when you're avoiding Lassiter?" Shawn is pretty sure that's the argument Gus always uses, but he never really pays attention to those conversations. "It shouldn't apply here, then."
"How many times has Lassiter threatened to shoot you?" Gus asks pointedly.
Shawn frowns. "How many times has Lassie threatened to shoot me lately, is what you should be asking." There's been nothing in the past week, Shawn believes – except for the one phone call this morning, from when Shawn had run out to grab a change of clothes from the car and Lassiter had learned about the evidence pointing to Colby as the murderer. That one doesn't count, though – it was only heavily implied.
"You said he cuffed you earlier!" Oh, Gus. Forever looking to better Shawn's vocabulary. If it weren't for decades of friendship with Burton Guster, Shawn might not have ten synonyms for 'indignant' sitting on the tip of his tongue to describe Gus' tone. Not that he'll ever admit this – one of them has to have that self-preservation thing for their 'cool' image.
"He was being overprotective," Shawn coos, tone dripping with over-the-top sweetness. The brief glance he manages to catch of Gus' face shows his friend to be unimpressed. "Foreplay?" he offers alternatively.
Rusty glances back and forth between the two friends, utterly dumfounded at the way they manage to forget anyone else is around. "Hello?" he yells, catching the attention of the two before he waves the gun around pointedly.
Shawn frowns, managing to look completely serious despite the fact that he's hanging from a tree branch bickering with his friend. "That's very rude, you know," he points out. "I'm having a conversation here. I'll be with you in a minute."
Rusty growls, taking aim again. Shawn gulps.
"No!" Gus lunges forward to dive at the weapon pointing at his friend. Rusty backs up, turning to point his weapon at Gus, who freezes on the spot.
"No!" Shawn repeats, minus the brave dramatics. Lunging is a little hard to accomplish when hanging from a tree branch. Speaking of which – Shawn tries to pull himself up again, with no luck. His muscles are shaky after being forced to hold his weight for so long. "If you're going to shoot someone, shoot me!"
"No, shoot me!" Gus argues back. "Shawn, don't you think you've been injured enough for one day?"
"Being shot is much worse than being punched, Gus! Besides, you're ruining my noble self-sacrifice." He glances over at Rusty. "It's me you want, really."
"I'm not going to stand back and let you be shot!" Gus looks so utterly concerned that Shawn finds it hard to argue with him. "Ignore him," Gus addresses Rusty.
"...I'm not letting it happen to you, either! Pick me!" Shawn complains.
"You're always the hero," Gus points out. "This is a partnership. This is my moment to shine!"
Much as Shawn hates what that means, he can't really argue that logic. "Okay fine, shoot him."
"Thank you," Gus says gracefully; then pales when the significance of that sinks in.
"I'll shoot you both!" Rusty threatens angrily.
"You'll shoot no one." Lassiter steps into view, gun drawn. "SBPD. Drop the weapon and put your hands on your head."
Rusty glances over at the Detective without lowering his gun from where it's trained on Gus, contemplating his chances. "I wouldn't do that if I were you," Juliet warns, approaching from the other side.
With a sigh, their suspect drops his weapon, raising his hands as Juliet moves in to arrest him and read him his rights. Lassiter steps forward, turning his attention towards the treed psychic.
"Spencer?" he asks cautiously, leaving the inherent question in his voice open-ended to invite an explanation.
Shawn would like to explain to the two detectives how he ended up in a tree – really, he would – but his arms have been sore with the strain of holding his weight up now, and this is a conversation best suited to ground level. He shifts his grip slightly, trying to shuffle over and place his feet on a lower branch – but his hand slips, swiping at the coarse bark as it slips through his fingers.
The world rushes up to meet him as he falls. He lands in a pair of strong arms. The body beneath him dips with the added weight, but doesn't falter.
The sudden stop steals the breath from his lungs, a hard weight settling itself on his chest in the brief moment it takes his lungs to re-learn the concept of 'inhaling.' His chest constricts; his lungs holding onto the precious little air they've retained for everything they're worth.
Someone's voice is low in his ear. "Spencer..." It is rock-steady and serves as a calming presence to counter his growing panic-- but a certain amount of cooperation is an implicit expectation. With what, Shawn doesn't quite know.
A roar echoes in his ears as all the blood rushes to his head; striving to keep him conscious. "Match my breathing, Spencer." One of his hands is placed atop a warm chest. He feels the all-important actions, struggling to match the in-out rhythm that should come so naturally.
One breath makes it in, then two. The spots clear from his vision.
He looks up to see – Lassiter? Holding him bridal style? Well, then. He doesn't get an opportunity like this every day.
"Oh, Lassie," he grins, cuddling into the older man's chest. "Carry me over the threshold!"
The lingering concern on Lassiter's face dissipates. "I should drop you, right now."
Gus moves forward to catch Shawn, alarmed. But Shawn isn't concerned. He and Lassiter understand each other, these days. For all of the bickering – all the back-and-forth, all the manhandling, all the doubt in the world – Shawn does not believe that Lassiter will ever let him fall.
"But you won't," he says sweetly.
Lassiter frowns. "If I thought you could actually stand under your own power..." he mutters. Carefully, he bends down to let Spencer down gently. Shawn takes a minute to get his feet under him, wavering slightly as he casually leans against Gus' supportive shoulder. The blood rushes to his head, so it takes a minute for the angry haze to dissipate and his vision to clear.
"Should I call for a bus?" Lassiter asks doubtfully.
"I'm fine!" Shawn protests. "Peachy as pineapple if pineapple were peachy."
Gus talks over his head. "I'll drive him back to the hospital – Colby should probably go back, too. I'm not entirely sure Shawn didn't check him out AMA."
Juliet appears out of nowhere to inform Carlton that the suspect has been passed off to another officer as she moves to support Shawn's other side.
"Hey, Jules," he grins at her. "I'm thinking of passing these scratches off as wounds from a tiger. What d'you think?"
She thinks about it for a minute. "Too farfetched. If you really want to make it believable," she begins, dropping her voice to give the illusion she is letting him in on an important secret, "think smaller, and add detail. You were attacked by a rogue 2x4 while saving kittens."
"I like the way you think, Detective O'Hara."
"Owww." Shawn freezes in mid-stretch – the listless feeling in his muscles that had prompted the action easily overwhelmed by an overwhelming ache.
Henry pops his head into room to check on his often-wayward son. "Sore?"
"In places I didn't know it was possible to be sore," Shawn groans, returning to his horizontal position against the cushions on the couch in his Dad's living room.
"Falling out of trees will do that to you," Henry points out, holding out two aspirin and pressing a glass of water into Shawn's hand.
"It certainly isn't making the list of 'recommended activities for those who've been recently punched,'" he replies wryly; accepting the pills. He dry-swallows the painkillers easily, chasing them with a swig of water.
"What time is it?" he asks after a minute. After Rusty's arrest, they'd dropped by the police station to pick up money for the Wii-Games fund (otherwise known as their fee). Gus had driven Shawn over to Henry's afterwards to enforce his demand that Shawn get some sleep. The last thing Shawn remembers is passing out on Henry's couch.
"Around six. You've been out for four hours."
"Mmhmm."Shawn nestles himself into the gap between the cushions and the back of the couch, closing his eyes and wishing to go back to that blissful state of unconsciousness.
The smell of food wafts over and gains his attention easily. One eye peeks open just in time to see Henry set a plate of lasagna down on the coffee table. "You need to eat." Henry points out. "You haven't had anything since breakfast."
"How did you--?" But Shawn knows how that happened. "Gus."
"—has already called to check on you, by the way."
Shawn rubs the back of his neck, wondering if Gloria still works at the spa. He stops suddenly, as the little details trickle down into his sphere of awareness. "You made lasagna," he frowns.
"So?" Henry shrugs noncommittally, settling into the armchair and turning the TV on.
"You haven't made that since..." Since Shawn was pistol-whipped by Drimmer and spent the night at Henry's for a bi-hourly concussion check.
Henry only ever makes lasagna when he needs something to keep him busy – when he's worried, or concerned.
"Stop it." Henry points a fork at him warningly.
Shawn grins. "Stop what?"
"Stop..." Henry trails off in lieu of an appropriate word. "Thinking that way. We are not having a moment."
Shawn nods, easing himself into a sitting position to decrease the plate-to-mouth timing. He's all about efficiency. "Sure we aren't. By the way, some guy from Hallmark called – they'll have the card design ready for Friday. Kodak wants to get in on the fun too – photo for the Christmas card, anyone?"
Henry's glare isn't nearly as effective when Shawn has a plate of concern!lasagna right in front of him.
"Just for that," Henry points out, "...you're not getting your bike tonight." Shawn had forgotten about his motorcycle being left at the scene, actually – although he remembers now that Juliet had said something about getting it towed back to the office for him.
Shawn shrugs. "That's alright." He doesn't have the flexibility (or the willingness) in his muscles to wrap himself around the seat right now, anyways. "I wouldn't be riding it yet anyways – I hear the weather system hasn't passed. We're in for another storm tonight," he says innocently.
"Just eat your lasagna, Shawn."
"Sure thing, Dad."