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The Case of the Missing Cockatiel

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When he was a child, his father had taken him to an amusement park. Not any specific amusement park, just an amusement park, any of the ones scattered around Santa Barbara. He'd begged for nearly two months to go and finally his father had agreed. It was the first and last time they'd gone, though Shawn had been to others since. Just not with his father, and not that same one.

According to his father, amusement parks were a waste of both time and money. To Shawn, they embodied everything a child could possibly find fun, all rolled into one big complex. He'd been so excited that he'd barely slept the night before. It had been fun, for the first five minutes. It probably would have been more fun if he'd gone with anyone other than his dad.

They bought nothing beyond the price of admission and a hot dog each. They rode two rides, each of which had involved nearly ten minutes of cajoling. His father had been adamant against him going on the really big roller coasters, but he'd talked his father into letting him ride the Tilt-a-Whirl and a wooden roller coaster that stayed close to the ground. They visited none of the shops and spent most of their time going from show to show mostly park-run attractions that featured employees in stereotypical country garb singing country songs older than his father. Shawn was always the youngest person in the audience.

He'd had a horrible time, but that was generally true of any place he went with his father. Shawn had never been back to that amusement park since. In fact, he tried to avoid the whole neighborhood entirely unless he was merely passing through, normally in Gus's car. He'd turned down dates because they lived too close to the park. The reason he avoided the park, beyond the horrible memories of his father, was a young woman, about 5'8", with curly brown hair and eyes that smiled at his every word.

He'd been on his way to the restroom, counting his steps since his father would ask him exactly how far it was there and back, and how many men wore hats and exactly which attractions he'd passed. She'd been sitting inside a purple tent set between a shop selling cheap western-themed toys and a cotton candy stand. The tent stood under a large maple tree, the flap pinned open to let in the summer breeze. Shawn had paused, his innate curiosity piqued by the way the woman was smiling at him. And she was smiling at him, there was no doubt about it. The crowd moved around him but her eyes never left him, following him as he started to walk away. She seemed strangely out of place among the bright, colorful lights and chintzy souvenirs, so he'd done what any curious child would do.

The fabric of the tent felt deceptively heavy under his hand, almost like velvet, possibly double the normal thickness. He could feel the temperature change as he stepped into the tent. It was like something out of a movie, the kind his father always told him were horridly unrealistic and not worth the film they were made with. There was a crystal ball on a gold stand in the center of a round table. A green cloth, embroidered with black swirling symbols, lay across the table, hanging down to the dirt floor. Silver stars hung from strings off the ceiling, swaying gently as he approached the table. Open crates lined the walls, forming a sort of temporary shelving that displayed a strange assortment of baubles and trinkets. He wondered if the skull sitting atop one of the crates was real.

"Welcome." Her voice was low and thick, tinged with a strange accent. Or maybe it was a mix of accents since it didn't strike him as anything recognizable, and his father had made him learn all of the common accents. Austrian and German, maybe?

"Hi." He shuffled forward slowly, his eyes still wandering around the room, trying to take every detail in.

She leaned forward, gold bracelets jangling as she extended her hands towards him. "May I?"

He wasn't quite sure what she wanted so he held out one hand. She took his hand in both of hers, turning it palm up and tracing her thumb along his skin. It tickled but curiosity kept him from pulling away.

"I was waiting for you." Her words sent shivers down his spine. "I'm glad you're here, Shawn Spencer."

His father had warned him about strangers who knew his name. He'd told Shawn all the usual tricks such charlatans used to get their information. Shawn glanced down at his clothing, but there was nothing with his name emblazoned on it. Maybe she'd overheard his father say his name when they'd walked past here earlier, though Shawn didn't remember passing the tent before.

"Do not worry. How I know you, and the name that comes attached, is not something to worry over. Never before have I met a child who shone so brightly."

"Ah... thanks." Now he understood why his father said never to talk to strangers. They were kind of creepy.

Her thumb traced a line straight down the center of his palm. "Fate is strong with you. That's how I knew you. One day you'll see. There are many things you'll see, things your dad taught you, and things your father could never have prepared you for."

He smiled warily and shifted his feet. Shawn was usually good with people. He had that kind of personality where he get along with everyone, but this lady was different. "Um... I'm not really a big believer in all that psychic mumbo-jumbo. I mean... it's neat and all, but my dad says it's fake."

She smiled wider and laughed, though Shawn had no idea what the joke was. "Some of it is. There are those out there who will pretend to hold power, as you will eventually learn." She taped the line on his palm again. "But belief will come, when we meet again. By then, you will have helped many people. You will have saved lives. You will be a hero, in place to help many others with your gift."

"You really don't know me well, do you, lady? I'm not a hero." As much as his father wanted him to be, he knew he'd never make it that far.

"No, but you will be. What else could the son of a cop be?"

At that point Shawn had pulled his hand free and backed out of the tent slowly. There had to be something shady about this lady if she knew that much about him, though it was kind of weird that she never asked for money. Weren't all the charlatans supposed to be after money?

Still, he thought it better not to mention the strange fortune teller to his father. He didn't see her again until nearly two decades later.

*****

Shawn whistled lightly as he walked into the coffee shop, the bell above the door jingling merrily, announcing his entrance. There was a bit of a line, but not enough to deter him from his sacred quest for really good coffee. That and Janice was working today. Janice always gave him extra cream on top. Hands in his pockets, he stepped in line and bounced slightly from foot to foot while he waited. Maybe he'd be nice and get Lassiter some too. Random acts of kindness always threw him off guard.

"Shawn Spencer."

The female voice sounded young enough and happy enough to make him turn quickly, a wide smile on his face. His smile slipped as he came face to face with possibly the only beautiful woman in the world that he desperately wanted to avoid.

"H-hi." He recognized the fortune teller instantly. "Long time, no see."

She held out her hand in greeting. Shawn hesitated in taking it. "It's been too long. I had hoped you would come see me again."

"U-um, I'm not..." Shawn glanced around for a possible excuse to walk away. Only four people between him and coffee, and as much as he didn't want to be speaking to her, he also wanted his coffee.

She looked the same as Shawn had last seen her, not even a day older, which was really not helping with the whole creepiness factor. Her clothes were less ostentatious, though she still wore the same golden bracelets.

"Do you not want to know what the future holds for you, Mr. Psychic?"

She must have seen a newspaper article on him somewhere, or maybe one of his appearances on TV. That didn't explain how she'd found him inside one of his favorite coffee shops. Admittedly it was near the precinct, within walking distance, so it could have just been a lucky guess. For some reason, he didn't think that was the case.

He smiled uneasily and tapped the side of his head. "I think I've got the future covered. I can see it just fine."

The corner of her mouth turned up slightly. "Really?" He almost thought she was mocking him, but her tone was too polite and lacked any real malice. "Are you sure? Observation can only bring you so close to the truth. Wouldn't you like to see more, to know more?"

"How do you-"

She reached forward quickly, grabbing his hand in both of hers before he could pull away, and squeezed tightly. Her hands felt hot against his skin. A strange tingling sensation ran through his arm and upwards. It felt as if she'd just shocked him but he could feel nothing in her hands that would have caused it. She squeezed his hand a second time before slowly stepping away.

"Believe in what you see."

Shawn almost stopped her. He had no idea what to say to her, but he was pretty sure there were questions he should be asking her, things that she should be telling him.

"Mr. Spencer, your usual?"

Shawn glanced at the cashier. "Yeah." He pulled out his wallet, dropped a large enough bill on the counter, and turned back to stop her from leaving.

She was already gone.

*****

Shawn rubbed a hand across his forehead. He'd had a headache ever since the strange fortune teller had grabbed his arms. Her words had stuck in his head. He kept replaying them in conjunction with what she'd said to him at the amusement park. None of it made sense to him, or at least not the kind of sense that he wanted to think about. Maybe she was just crazy.

That was something to worry about later. Right now, he was on the steps of the Santa Barbara Police Department which meant, headache or not, it was show time. Vick had actually called him in this time, something about a girl murdered, no witnesses, no evidence, nothing to go on and thus the need for psychic help. His fashionably late arrival was more accidental than planned. The coffee had perhaps been an unnecessary detour, though it would at least provide him the pleasure of seeing the look of confusion on Lassiter's face as Shawn handed him a cup of coffee. He'd ended up pitching his own cup, extra cream and all, after the first few sips had made his stomach turn. The headache was doing quite a good job at killing his appetite.

He forced a wide smile onto his face as he headed towards the conference room, nodding at Buzz as he passed and absently scanning over the strangers in the bullpen. His gaze lingered on a quiet-seeming man handcuffed to a chair in the corner. The man looked like an average accountant, here as the result of some strange mishap. Shawn had the feeling that he wasn't as innocent as he seemed. He shivered as he walked under an air vent and turned his attention to the conference room.

Vick, Lassiter, Jules, and Gus were gathered around the conference table. Pictures littered the surface of the table, crime scene photos, judging by the was Gus kept turning to look away then glancing back as the chief or one of the detectives would point to something, only to quickly turn away again. Their backs were to the door as Shawn approached, so none of them noticed as he walked up to the door, pushing hard against the handle as he opened it.

The door hit the wall with a loud bang, drawing their attention to him for a brief moment, long enough for him to scan the pictures spread out on the table. He handed Lassiter the cup of coffee as he stepped forward, grinning at the confusion that spread across the detective's face. It was everything he'd hoped for and more. Well, close enough.

Bits of the images stuck out - a circular impression on the floor, gray feathers sticking out from under a cabinet, gold hoop earrings, beads scattered across the floor, two small bowls side by side on the floor. He brought his hands to his temple and closed his eyes, scrunching up his face as if pained by a thought. The pain at least wasn't hard to fake. He could feel his headache starting to reassert itself.

"What's this?" Shawn exclaimed. "Polly wants a suspect?" He dropped his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "The bird saw it all."

The Chief frowned down at the pictures. "She had a bird? Did we recover a bird?"

"Save the bird, save the world." Blank stares met him. Perhaps the jazz hands had been a bit too much. Gus arched an eyebrow. Lassiter was staring between Shawn and the coffee. His expression softened as he sipped at the coffee - three creams, four sugars, exactly how Lassiter liked it. As much fun as annoying Lassiter was, Shawn liked seeing what other emotions he could evoke.

Shawn blamed the headache for throwing off his game. Normally it took a night of heavy drinking to make him feel this awful, and it was only getting worse as time passed. It felt like there were gnomes mining inside his skull, gnomes with little sharp and jagged mining... mining tool things that they used to chip away parts of brain. He should probably wrap this up quickly, maybe snag a couple of the photos to take home and get out of here in favor of half a bottle of Aspirin and a nap.

"Okay." Shawn clapped his hands together as he stepped up to the table. Vick and Juliet made room for him. "That one - not so funny." He mock-glared over his shoulder. "Polly, you really gotta give me better lines than that. No, I don't think that one's gonna fly either." He paused to give the imaginary parrot a moment to respond. "Look, no need to get snippy. How was I supposed to know she clipped your wings?" He had around an eighty percent chance of being right on that. Indoor birds usually had their wings clipped, especially if they were left to wander around the apartment as this one obviously was.

Lassiter looked like he'd swallowed something foul. Shawn had that effect on people. Kudos to him for noticing the bird when they hadn't. Lassiter hated it when Shawn noticed something they'd overlooked, though admittedly the detectives had gotten better at picking out details in the crime scenes. A couple more years and they may not even need Shawn to solve their cases for them.

He stared down at the photographs, leaning forward slightly over the table to get a better look at the far photos and pretending Lassiter was checking out his ass instead of just glaring at Shawn on principle. It was a nice ass, if he did say so himself, and the strange quirky part of him that liked the little paper umbrellas that came in cocktails and Cher albums really wouldn't have minded if Lassiter actually was checking out his ass. But that was a mental conversation for another time.

The victim appeared to have been stabbed, judging by the bloody wound on her chest. She'd been found in her living room, sprawled on the floor less than a foot from her coffee table. Feet towards the door meant she likely saw her attacker. Lack of defensive wounds suggested surprise or familiarity with her assailant. The detectives would have picked up on all of that. They probably even had a full psych profile done up on her, hiding in one of the folders on Lassiter's desk. He made a mental note to rummage through them later.

The girl had expensive tastes. She lived alone, minus the one - no, make that two pets. "I'm sensing another love in her life. Small, furry, used to sleeping on the bed with her at night."

He could hear the smile in Jules's voice. "She had a Shitzu. He's currently at the pound."

Shawn shuddered. He hated little yappy dogs.

Shelves were built into the walls, broken apart in even intervals to form a series of cubes, each randomly decorated with small stacks of books and carefully placed trinkets. She was obviously interested in foreign cultures, and well-traveled. There were a number of photos of famous tourist spots from around the world. A young man was featured in several of the pictures, smiling at the camera with his arm around the victim. The police would have found and questioned him, which meant they were looking for someone less obvious or maybe a complete stranger.

A wooden carving of a Hawaiian girl mid-dance stood out about eye-level on the shelf next to the door. It made him want pineapple.

"Polly never liked her beau," he said as he reached for a picture. The words struck him as odd only after they'd left his mouth. That wasn't what he'd been intending to say, but he'd roll with it. His fingertips gently brushed over the still face captured in the photos.

Something heavy struck Shawn in the center of his chest, right between where his breasts would be if he'd been born with them. He staggered a step back, gasping for air as the wind was knocked out of him. A dog was yapping loudly, almost drowned out by the shrill cry of a bird.

"Shawn?" Gus was looking at him funny.

He held up a hand, but he couldn't quite get the words out to tell Gus he was fine. It'd felt like.... No, that was silly. He rubbed at his chest, though the pain had already faded. The impression of a knife stuck with him. A very specific knife.

Shawn took a step forward, towards the table. The room flashed black and instead of looking down at the pictures, he was looking down at the girl in her living room. A white-handled knife stuck out of her chest. He crouched down to get a better look and noticed faint black lines carved into the hilt. Something moved in the corner of his vision. A black shape stepped forward, reaching down with one hand to pull the knife from the victim's chest. The knife passed in front of his face, giving him a good view of the blood-covered blade.

He blinked and the conference table was right in front of him. That was weird in a way he really didn't want to think about right now. Weird and disorienting, but at least it made his headache shrink down to a more manageable level. He hoped he was going crazy. That'd be a lot less disturbing than the only other possibility that came to mind.

The picture closest to him showed a hint of pink hiding under a couch cushion. Shawn stood quickly and turned. He wagged a finger at Jules and had trouble forcing a smile. "Someone didn't check under the cushions. There's more than just loose change in there, you'll also find your vic's lost cellphone."

The kind of noise he normally associated with a crowded bar filled his ears, along with a cheerful female voice saying "Nice to meet you. I'm Katherine Marcen."

"Katherine," Shawn corrected himself. "You'll find Katherine's cellphone hidden in the couch."

Even Gus looked surprised.

"How did you...?" Jules never finished her sentence.

Shawn shrugged, belatedly realizing he should be throwing more theatrics into this if he didn't want to come off looking like the prime suspect. He pointed over his shoulder. "A little bird told me."

Lassiter was flipping though a file, holding it open enough for Shawn to read if he could get close and distract Lassiter at the same time. He smiled as he stepped towards the head detective. "Polly also told me that your murder weapon is a knife with a white handle with thin black carvings in it. Blade's an inch wide, five inches long, usually carried in a belt sheathe." He hadn't seen the sheathe, but it sounded right.

The papers tipped forward slightly as Lassiter gaped at him. It was the coroner's report. Autopsy confirmed possible knife wound to the chest, bled out, died sometime late yesterday evening. Lassiter followed Shawn's gaze to the folder and snapped it shut with a frown. "Who told you-"

The rest of Lassiter's sentence was cut off by a screeching bird. He clapped both hands over his ears but that only made the sound worse. It was coming from inside his head, he realized, and growing louder with each minute. He felt himself falling but he didn't hit the ground. Brown liquid splashed across the carpet.

She knew her attacker, and the bird did too. It was a guy, someone Katherine had met years ago, someone she hadn't seen in a long time and he got the impression that seeing him would be a bad thing. It had been a bad thing, since she'd wound up dead. He wasn't her boyfriend. No, her boyfriend was a guy named Victor that worked downtown and made a lot of money. Victor was good for her. This guy was not and that was why... that was why he'd gone away. He'd left her. He'd been forced to leave her.

The bird cried again and this time he managed to catch the bird's name. Magellan. The bird was named Magellan and this guy, whoever he was, had picked Magellan out for Katherine. Magellan was supposed to keep her company while he was away. He wasn't ever supposed to come back.

He could hear Magellan inside his head, and each time the bird cawed it brought up images, flashes of the life he'd had with Katherine, of places she'd gone, people she'd met. He saw her entire life flash in front of him like a sideshow fast-forwarded ten times over, so fast that it was hard to distinguish one picture from the next.

Then, all of a sudden, the images stopped, and all he saw was black.

*****

He woke to a wet cloth across his eyes and the faint sounds of someone moving around the room. There were more noises, things he had a strong feeling weren't actually happening in the room and some that he recognized from the station. The station copier needed servicing. Officer Allen was on the phone with Michelle again. He could hear distant voices, just at the edge of his hearing and he knew most of them weren't actually coming from the people in the precinct. One sound carried over that, focusing his attention on the room around him. Someone... someone was... humming?

The humming stopped. "Time to wake up," an unfamiliar female voice said from across the room.

Shawn sat up, almost wishing he hadn't as his head throbbed dully. Lassiter had his back to him, staring at something on the conference table. A strange woman sat on the opposite side of the conference table. He could see the wall through her.

"Huh."

Lassiter turned, a slight frown on his face. "Oh. You're up."

The woman giggled. She was young-ish, late twenties, early thirties, curly hair though it was hard to make out the color. "Don't let his nonchalance fool you. He was worried."

Shawn closed his eyes and counted to ten before opening them. The woman was still there. He rubbed at his eyes. Still there.

Insanity was sounding better every minute.

Lassiter crouched down in front of him. "Spencer?"

Shawn held up a finger. "One question." He pointed to the woman. "Is she actually there?"

Lassiter turned, his gaze roving across the room, passing over the woman without pause. "Is who where?"

"Crap."

The woman smiled. "You should just accept this."

"You are not there." He only pretended to see ghosts, they weren't supposed to be actually there, much less talking to him.

The woman just smiled. Lassiter's frown deepened. "What?"

"Not you," Shawn clarified. "Her." He pointed.

Lassiter turned again. "Are you alright?"

She leaned forward on her elbows. "I'm quite real. Well, real enough. He's rather concerned for you. Don't you think that's charming?"

"No," Shawn answered them both at once. He was lying, at least to one of them. The woman laughed a little.

Lassiter stared at him for a long minute before standing slowly. "Ah... right." The detective turned back to the table. "You were right about the cellphone." He held up a plastic bag with a pink cellphone in it.

"You should thank him." The woman's voice had a strange tone to it. She sounded like she was talking through a phone with less-than-perfect reception. "He caught you when you fell earlier. They almost called an ambulance for you."

They were concerned? For him? He had to admit he was more than a little concerned for himself as well.

"Just roll with it," the strange woman said. "That's what you do. Is it so bad to be valid for a change?"

He wasn't quite sure how to answer that.

The door opened. "Shawn!" Gus was at his side in a second, his voice dropping to a low hiss. "What the hell was that, Shawn?"

"Aren't you going to tell them?" The woman actually seemed amused at all of this. "I'm sure they'd love to hear that you're a real and true psychic now. Isn't that wonderful?"

He didn't feel like dignifying that with a response. Who knew ghosts were so smug?

"I'll explain later," he whispered back to Gus.

"Mr. Spencer?" Chief Vick's very sensible shoes moved into his field of vision. He looked up with a half-smile. "I trust you're feeling better?"

"A bit."

"That must have been some vision." Juliet actually sounded impressed. "Did you see who the killer was?"

Shawn glanced at the ghost. "I saw a lot of things, but no name." He remembered the bird. "Well, one name, but that's just the bird's. It's a cockatiel named Magellan."

The ghost raised an eyebrow. "There's something you're forgetting."

Even the dead criticized him.

"And the guy that killed her has the bird. Ex-boyfriend, moved out of town years ago. He's the one that bought her the bird."

Vick started to turn. Juliet held up a hand. "Right, on it."

"You know, Mr. Spencer, you've been a lot more informative than usual."

"You really should tell them why," the she-ghost said. "She's thinking of bringing you on full time. Isn't that great?" She nodded towards Lassiter. "If you were anyone else, he would have arrested you on suspicion of murder by now, but he doesn't think you did it. Well, he doesn't want to think you did it."

He wasn't quite sure if the extra pay was worth it if this is what he had to deal with. Were all psychic visions that intense?

Vick held out her hand to help him to his feet. He hesitated for a brief second, remembering the way the fortune teller had approached him. This was Vick, as normal as they come. He did not like the ghost's smile. Vick's hand closed over his. Shawn froze halfway out of his seat as images assailed him - square hats made out of a blue fabric, a large gathering on a college campus, people in robes, Vick and her husband posing for a picture with a young woman. His mouth moved on its own. "Your daughter will be a doctor - her choice, not yours. It'll be sunny the day she graduates from medical school, and you'll have a room rented at the Holiday Inn nearby. You flew in and met her fiance Barry at the airport. He plays rugby."

The chief stared at him. Shawn pulled his hand away quickly. "Sorry." Words failed him. He was half-afraid of what would come out of his mouth if he tried to say anything more.

Shawn grabbed Gus by the shoulder and edged towards the door.

"We have to go. Now. Bye."

The ghost waved, and thankfully did not follow them.

"You have a lot of explaining to do," Gus hissed.

"I'm not the only one."

*****

"You're absolutely certain you've never employed a fortune teller at your park? Specifically in the summer of 1988."

Gus stared at him from opposite Shawn's desk. He could almost hear the questions bumping around inside of Gus's head, but that was more due to their years of friendship than shiny new psychic abilities.

"Right. Well, thank you for your time." Shawn put down the phone slowly.

"Shawn?"

Their office was thankfully ghost-free and he was proud to say he hadn't seen anything in the last hour. It didn't really make him feel any better.

"Shawn, why are you calling people about fortune tellers? I thought you thought they were creepy after you met that one at the amusement park."

"That opinion has not changed."

"And what was all that stuff about Chief Vick's kid? You know that's gonna come back to bite you when her kid grows up. I mean, rugby?"

"Not if it comes true." He knew it would, just like he knew exactly what Gus was about to say.

He spoke along with Gus. "You're insane."

"If only that were true," Shawn added. Gus's mouth was hanging open. He knew what he had to say, though that didn't mean he liked it. "Okay, Gus. You know how I've been pretending to be a psychic the last year or so?"

"Why, yes, Shawn. I had noticed."

"Ouch!" Shawn mocked offense. "Dude, no need to get catty. Well, I ran into that creepy fortune teller - still uber-creepy - this morning and now I'm seeing things." He leaned forward over the desk. "There was a ghost in the police station, Gus. A ghost!"

Gus waited a whole five seconds before bursting into nervous laughter. "Right, Shawn. Of course."

Shawn waved his hands at Gus. It didn't seem to make him stop laughing. "Gus! Really. I saw all this weird stuff. Like that Katrina girl-"

"Katherine."

"Right!" He really should have remembered that. "Katherine. Anyways, she goes to like, half the places I do, just at different times of the day. How odd is that? I know what she orders. I know what her favorite bars are and that she talked to her bird like it was a real person. I don't even have to think about half this stuff, it's just there."

"Shawn."

"I'm telling the truth." Now he understood how the boy who cried wolf felt.

"Seriously, Shawn."

"Dead serious, Gus. Emphasis on the dead, as in I now see them. I see dead people, and hear them, and they seem to be trying to give me dating advice." Why was it easier convincing people he was a psychic when he was faking it?

"Shawn."

"Serious."

"I'm not falling for it."

"Fine!" Shawn stood, his chair nearly smacking the wall. He absently reached out a hand to stop it. He felt like something was tugging at his shirt. "I think we should go."

"Go where, Shawn? We just got back."

"What do we always do in these cases? We need to go investigate, go where she went, find that ex-boyfriend."

"I thought you said he moved?"

"He's back. Hence the killing."

"Right." Gus hesitated a second. "Where to?"

*****

Shawn stared out the window of Gus's car. They'd been to a dozen of Katherine's favorite places in the last three days and he'd gotten nothing. Well, nothing relevant. This psychic gift seemed to be turning him into the do-gooder of all do-gooders. He'd helped find lost cats, lost car keys, lost boyfriends, given financial advice, stopped twelve accidents, and won himself a free smoothie. It was like he didn't even have to try anymore, the answers just popped into his head, at least on trivial things. He'd be enjoying it if it wasn't still a little creepy.

Still nothing on the killer.

Gus was silent, his eyes only half-focused on the road. Every few seconds, he'd glance over at Shawn and his brow would wrinkle. Gus was starting to believe him. Was it really that hard for people to believe he was telling the truth?

He fingered the bottle of aspirin in his pocket and debated taking another one. His head hurt constantly. There was just so much out there, so many people who had something to say, so many things clamoring for his attention. It never stopped, never went away. He knew that all he had to do was stop, clear his mind, and he could know it all, but he didn't think he was ready for that. He didn't think it'd be a good idea, at least not until he had some sort of vague clue how to work this whole psychic thing a bit better.

Just one clue. All he needed was one clue to solve this case, or the cops were gonna start thinking it was him. If he were a cop, he would have arrested himself days ago. The tip about the blade? Why in the world had he given them specifics?

Shawn closed his eyes and dropped his head back onto the headrest. It seemed like they'd done nothing but drive around.

Driving. The guy had driven into town. Shawn could see the highway stretching out behind his closed eyelids. Wide, open country, and hills before that. Signs passed by in a blur, green backgrounds with white lettering. He passed the city's welcome sign, and stopped in front of an apartment complex.

He had his phone out in seconds.

"What is it, Spencer?" Lassiter even sounded grumpy over the phone.

"Grab a pen." He needed to tell the detective the numbers he'd seen before he forgot.

"Fine." That was Lassiter's 'I'll humor you' tone.

He knew the detective hadn't actually moved. "Seriously, Lassiter. Pen. Paper. Hurry up with it. I can tell you're faking."

Shawn could almost feel Lassiter's surprise. He heard a drawer open and close. "Okay. Now what."

"I saw some numbers connected to your case. Think driving. Now, write these down: 210, 15, 134, 101. I'm getting 18 hours, give or take with traffic, and a lot of countryside."

The phone was silent for a moment. "Those are highway numbers leading into Santa Barbara."

"Bingo." Now if only his psychic vision could have told him where they guy was from. "I'm sensing North."

Lassiter tapped his pencil on his desk. The eraser made a dull thunk that could be heard even over the phone. "Right," he drawled out the word. "Look, why don't you come into the station and we'll go over these?"

Shawn straightened quickly. Lassiter was asking him to come in? Lassiter. He must have gotten something right.

"Sure thing, Lassy-bear. We're on our way."

He was smiling as he closed his phone. "Gus, to the police station."

*****

Shawn paced nervously, walking from one cement wall to the other in a few short steps, then repeating the process. He really should have seen this one coming, what with being psychic and all. What good were precognitive visions if they didn't keep you out of jail? And his head... his head was killing him. The voices were stronger here, practically shouting to be heard. They wanted to tell him everything that everyone who'd been in this room had done. Most of the men and women who'd been in here had been harmless, but some of them, some of them had done bad, bad things.

The ghost was back, lounging in one of the chairs like she belonged there. Shawn guessed this woman was a former cop, but he didn't remember seeing anyone like her when his father had been here.

"At least tell me your name," he asked thin air.

"Call me Margie," she said.

Gus was nearby. Shawn could feel him. If he closed his eyes, he could have turned and pointed right to where Gus was sitting in another interrogation exactly like this one. The interrogation room felt different than the last time Shawn had been here. He didn't like it, and not only because he was alone with a ghost. It made him nervous, made words and phrases bounce around his skull, made him think of things that would just keep him in here longer if he said them out loud.

"Would it really be so bad to tell them the truth?"

Shawn bit his tongue to stifle his first response. He didn't sense anything from the other side of the one-way glass but that didn't mean no one was listening.

"Yes," he answered instead.

"Lassiter wants, more than anything, to hear the truth from you, but not quite in the way you think. It'll turn out alright. They're not going to throw you in jail for lying to them. Technically you're not lying anymore."

He could just picture the rage on Lassiter's face if he knew the truth. Okay, that one time at the bar aside, Lassiter hated it when Shawn knew something he didn't and he was pretty sure Lassiter would do just about anything to see Shawn in handcuffs. Hence the interrogation room he was currently stuck in.

"You're half-right on the handcuffs," Margie said with a wide smile, "though the fuzzy kind are more probable."

Shawn's entire brain crashed on that thought. It took a few minutes before the images cleared out from his head and his mind reset. "We're not-"

"You sure?"

He was not having this conversation. Not with a dead woman, not with anyone, ever, much less aloud. "Very. Perfectly. Crystal. He hates me."

She waved a hand. "Nah. He just doesn't like that you're lying. You could go a long way with him if you were honest."

"I don't want to go anywhere, short or long."

He was starting to hate that smile. "Really? I think someone doth protest too much."

"Yes!" For a brief second, he imagined what it would be like with Lassiter on top of him. Lassiter would pin him, arms above his head while he held Shawn down and- "Aaaah!" Shawn shook his head to clear it. That was not hot. Not at all. And by not, he meant entirely in a 'please, sir, may I have some more' kind of way.

"It's not like you've never been with a guy," Margie pointed out.

"Not in this state." There'd been Marco in Miami. Marco, whom he'd even brought to meet his mom. Marco, and a few others scattered around the country. Bill, James, Andrew, Dennis. "Which is kind of odd considering I live in California."

"Well-"

"No! Just, no! Why are you even here, anyways?"

She tilted the chair back on two legs. That had to look creepy to anyone not-him who happened to be watching. "I've been here for years, you just never saw me. But I am a fan. I was right here the very first time you had a vision. I've been watching you all along."

"That's kind of creepy. And sad. You're stuck here?"

Her chair landed back on all four feet. The door opened before she could answer, and the two detectives walked in. Lassiter frowned darkly as he stormed into the room, Juliet trailing quietly at his side. She shot Shawn an apologetic look as she took a seat at the opposite side of the table. Margie stood before Juliet could sit on her and waved to Shawn before disappearing through the wall.

"Who the hell were you talking to, Spencer?"

So they had been listening.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

Lassiter's frown darkened. "Whatever. Sit down. We have a few questions for you." Lassiter didn't sound nearly as pleased as Shawn expected.

Shawn eyed the table warily. He had a bad feeling about that table, and about what would come out of his mouth if he sat down.

"About my wonderful tips? Don't you think we should go somewhere more comfortable? Did you catch the guy?"

"There is no guy." So much for wishful thinking. Lassiter opened the folder he was carrying and slapped five photos down on the table. Photos of Shawn asking questions at Katherine's favorite hang-outs. "There's just you, with a history of visiting the same places as Katherine and a lot of inside information."

"But the ex-boyfriend with the cockatiel?" He'd seen it. It was real, he just couldn't prove anything, not without actually finding the guy.

Juliet fidgeted with the corner of a photo. "He doesn't exist, Shawn. No one knows anything about him, not even her parents. The bird was purchased with one of her own credit cards."

Shawn saw the killer in front of a computer, typing numbers into an online form. He'd memorized her credit card number.

He should have kept his mouth shut.

"He must have-"

Lassiter's fist banged against the metal table, making both Shawn and Juliet jump.

"Sit!"

He did, slowly. Shawn carefully pulled the chair away from the table, making sure to stay a good distance away from the metal surface. It didn't help. Shawn felt his back tense as soon as he sat down. His head rolled back as faces started to appear before him. He recognized some of them from when he'd walked through the precinct this morning. Most of them had been behind bars. Others he knew from previous cases, or the news.

Words filled his mouth, almost faster than he could get them out.

Water, pipes, a red metal box, wooden paneling. "Michael Jones is innocent, his brother stole the money. It's hidden in a box under the bottom panel of his kitchen cabinet, the one just below the sink." Dirt and shovels, the smell of cement, white flowers. "David Ross is lying. The body's in the cemetery, buried just below the casket of Annabel Myer." A girl crying, strong arms, musky cologne. "Jessica Maefs was not alone that night. Her friends saw what happened, and who did it, but they won't say because they're afraid of his friends." Flowered curtains, binoculars, gray hair. "James Daniels threw the first punch, ask the man in the building across the street what he saw."

A table, set for two though only one ate. "Eric..." His skin crawled. He had a bad feeling. There was something about this man, about Eric, that frightened him. He didn't want to know why this guy was in jail, but he knew Eric deserved it. He was in the holding cell right now, in his own, private cell and Shawn didn't want to be anywhere near him. "Eric Carol ate..." He could see the utensils thick with blood. Something was boiling on a stove. Red linen on the table. Fine silverware, expensive plates, sharp knives. Bones. A lot of bone, some with meat still on it and it wasn't from an animal.

"Stop it." Shawn's voice rose an octave. He couldn't see the interrogation room anymore, just the table. "He ate..." He didn't want to see this. He really didn't want to see this. "Stop." The visions weren't stopping. They weren't going to stop. He saw the man opening his door for a guest. "Make it stop." He saw the man again, in the kitchen, blood on his brown apron. "Please make it stop." Shawn could feel the bile rising in his throat, but his mouth moved around it. "He cooked and ate..." There was an oven, and a spice rack. "He ate..."

"Shawn." Lassiter's hand closed around his arm, shaking him roughly, and suddenly the faces went away. When had Lassiter moved this close? "Shawn?"

Shawn swallowed bile and licked his lips. "I..." He stared at Lassiter's face and tried very hard not to remember any of what he'd just seen. He was shaking. He should probably be asking for the garbage can. "I don't want to know what that man did. I don't want to know."

Both of the detectives were staring at him.

Shawn forced a small smile, though it turned out more like a grimace. "Being psychic isn't as much fun as TV makes it out to be."

Lassiter stood, his hand falling away. "There's no way you're-" Blood and knives. Steak knives. There was a plate with.... Shawn quickly grabbed Lassiter's arm and stood, moving as far away from the chair as his grip on Lassiter would let him.

"Yeah. Not joking here." He moved so that Lassiter was between him and the chair. "Soooo not joking. Not funny at all."

Juliet was frowning. "But you always used to wave your hands around more."

"This is different." Shawn wondered if he could get out of this without admitting to lying.

"But... how did you know about Eric Carol?" Juliet took a step forward. "That was a closed case. No one's supposed to know anything about that."

Lassiter half-heartedly tried to tug his arm free from Shawn. "Who told you? I didn't, which leaves the chief, Detective O'Hara, or someone from the DA's office."

Shawn tightened his fingers in Lassiter's sleeve. The voices weren't nearly as loud around Carlton, which was all the more reason for Shawn to stick close to him. He tried not to think about what the ghost had said. "No one told me. I saw... I saw the knives and the pot and..." Shawn gagged slightly around the words. He needed to move closer to that garbage can. "I don't want to know what the hell he was eating or who..." A name waited, hovering at the edge of his consciousness and trying to press in.

Lassiter jerked his arm away and both of Shawn's hands flew to his head. There was a table setting, a cutting board, a slab of meat. The face of a young woman in a dress suit appeared. "Anne Marie Sorenson." Arms caught him as he fell, cutting off the images that started to fill his mind at the name.

"Maybe he should wait in the Chief's office," Juliet suggested. No one argued with her.

*****

Vick stared at the detectives. "He said what?"

"You know, this lack of trust really hurts me. I've been very open about my abilities and yet you people..." He cut himself off with a sigh.

Vick almost looked ashamed. "Yes, well, given the sudden wealth of information you've provided on current cases, I have no choice but to believe in your psychic abilities. Still, I am curious why you've suddenly gained such a surprising amount of insight."

Shawn shifted in his chair. Gus was staring at him. "Let's just say I got a little upgrade. One could almost say I... leveled up, to use a video game metaphor."

Gus chimed in. "And, like when leveling up in a game, Shawn has developed new powers with which to help you all fight crime. Isn't that right, Shawn?"

"Absolutely."

Juliet stepped forward and put her hand on the back of Shawn's chair. It was meant to be a comforting gesture but he couldn't help but shy away. He wasn't quite sure he wanted to see what Juliet's future held. "Maybe we should take Shawn to Miss Marcen's apartment. I mean, in all those psychic shows, they have the psychic touching something that belonged to the victim and then getting flashes."

"No offense, Jules, but I'm not a compass. I can't just point you in the direction of the killer."

Vick leaned across her desk. "But you could try. You're our only lead at the moment, Mr. Spencer, and may I remind you that you're currently also our only suspect."

Crime scene or jail with the cannibal, not a hard choice. "Yes, ma'am." He glanced back at the detectives. "So, who's driving?"

*****

At this point he doesn't find it odd that he ends up in Lassiter's car. Margie had said something about ulterior motives but even though Shawn was starting to accept this whole actually-psychic thing, it was a far leap to believe that Lassiter might secretly like him. That thought was far stranger than talking to ghosts.

"Hey, Lassy, do you remember anyone by the name of Margie who used to work for the police?"

Lassiter glanced over at him for a brief second before turning his eyes back to the road. "Not recently."

Shawn shifted in his seat. "I don't mean now, I... I mean someone who died. A young woman."

Lassiter's brow furrowed. "There was an officer named Margie Hall who died a few years ago, but she was retired and in her late sixties."

"Huh." Could ghosts do that? It made sense, sort of, since they weren't actually physically there. He wondered if they could look like anyone or if they were limited to a form they'd once had.

"Why?"

Shawn blinked. "What?"

"Why, as in, why do you ask?"

It felt different explaining what he'd seen when he wasn't just making it up. "She's haunting the police station."

"Oh." Lassiter didn't believe him. Well, that wasn't entirely true. He didn't want to believe Shawn, but he was starting to.

The car slowed to a halt in front of an apartment building much like the one Shawn had seen in his vision. He stepped out of the car slowly. The air around the building seemed to hum. His head throbbed in what he was coming to recognize as the precursor to a vision. He heard Gus and Juliet park, their voices faint in the crackling air. Shawn took a step towards the building.

He saw a brown car, a Toyota. The killer stepped out, duffle bag in hand, and started towards the building. Shawn turned as the man walked by, but he couldn't quite make out a face.

Shawn followed the man into the building. Someone held the door open for him and he saw Katherine smiling at the janitor as he added a name to one of the mailboxes. He couldn't see which mailbox, the janitor was blocking most of the words, but it was one of the lower floors. She lived higher, seventh floor. He saw an initial, E, but no number.

"Spencer, this way." Shawn blinked and the vision was gone. Lassiter was frowning at him, but it wasn't his usual frown.

He glanced at the mailboxes in front of him. There was Katherine's name on room 704.

"Right, coming."

Lassiter held the elevator door open for him. Shawn was the last one in but no one had selected a floor. He reached over and pushed the number seven.

"How did you-" Juliet cut herself off.

Shawn smiled slightly. Some things never changed.

His stomach sank as the elevator rose and he got the sense of something foul, like they were driving downwind of a skunk and getting closer to the source. The doors slid open, bringing a waft of air into the elevator. Shawn nearly gagged. He coughed, wishing he had something to take the taste out of his mouth but Lassiter was allergic to mint and Juliet had forgotten hers.

It was kind of creepy that he knew that.

Lassiter led the way down the hall, stopping in front of room 704 and opened the door. A nervous looking middle-aged man waited just inside the door.

"Oh, there you are, detectives." The man wrung his hands together. Shawn studied him for a brief moment before dismissing the man as a suspect. He wasn't nervous from guilt, but rather from being alone in a room where someone had been killed. This man was superstitious.

The man - most likely the manager - glanced at the two newcomers.

Shawn held out his hand, though his mind was already drifting elsewhere. "Shawn Spencer, head psychic for the Santa Barbara Police Department."

He could feel the man's surprise, and excitement, through his grip. Here was a man who was fascinated by the occult, not the flashy stuff, but the people fortune tellers, astrologers, and, most of all, psychics. There would be questions, tons of questions, if Shawn didn't get him out of the room.

"It's an honor to meet you," the man started. A name came to mind.

Shawn flashed a charming smile and stepped to the side. "I'm sure it is, Mr. Waldermere, but if you'll excuse me, I need to..." He felt stupid saying it, more so considering he actually meant it. "Read the psychic vibrations of the room. I think Detective Lassiter had a few more questions for you."

"I do?" Lassiter stared at him. Shawn moved past the manager and pointed at the man before jerking his thumb sideways. He needed this man out of here, or at least distracted. "Oh, that's right. Questions. Detective O'Hara, did you bring that list of questions?"

Juliet smiled quickly. "Yes." She took the manager by the arm. "If you'd just step over here, we have a few things we need to ask."

Shawn stepped into the living room and gagged. The stench was worse in here, centering near the coffee table. "Gus, crack a window." He didn't think it'd help that much but it was worth a shot. At the very least, it'd get some air in here.

He walked around the room slowly, sticking towards the edges and not touching anything. It was obvious that a crime had been committed here, so obvious that he almost wondered why the others didn't feel it. A woman's laughter echoed faintly through the living room, and a bird's cackle. The faint outline of a wire cage appeared in the corner of the room, but the bird was missing from it.

A sharp tug on his wrists brought him to his knees. The carpet cushioned his fall and he curled his fingers into the shag fibers. His hands felt warm. The floor pulsed beneath him, vibrating like someone had the bass up too high on their stereo but there was no sound to go with it.

"Under." The word stuck in his head and to his lips. "There's something under." It wasn't like dirt, or a grave. It wasn't something buried, but it was something hiding. He knocked on the floor. "Under where?"

"I think we can leave her clothes out of this, Shawn." Gus commented from near the window.

"Not underwear, under where." Shawn leaned forward and closed his eyes. He could hear heavy boots thudding along the hallway. There was something important below him.

The manager's voice broke Shawn's concentration. "The apartment below this is Mrs. McCreenan's." He glanced at the detectives. "Do you think she had something to do with this?"

"No," Shawn answered for them. "She's fine, though her cat is about to have kittens. The cream-colored one, Adam."

He stood slowly, one hand on the back of the couch to help himself up. Lassiter was watching him from the doorway, blocking the manager from entering though he kept peering around Lassiter's shoulder. Shawn smiled, his grin slowly echoed on Lassiter's face though more muted than Shawn's own.

Juliet tapped Mr. Waldermere on shoulder. "What can you tell us about Ms. Marcen's bird?"

The blood was gone from the carpet but Shawn could still picture Katherine lying there as in his first vision. His gaze was caught by her imaginary figure on the floor. As he stared, her image solidified. He shivered as cold air gusted through the room. Shawn turned to ask Gus to close the window but Gus wasn't there. The door was closed. He was alone with the corpse.

Another figure appeared next to the couch, more shadow than solid form. Blood dripped from the knife in its hand, falling in slow drops to splash on the carpet. Shawn reached forward but his hand passed through the figure. He smelled blood and sawdust and oil. The figure solidified, resolving into a young man, slightly younger than Shawn. The man's attention stayed on Katherine as a slow smile spread across his face. Shawn studied his face, his height, any detail that might help the police identify him.

He followed the man into the kitchen where he pulled two paper towels off the rack and wiped the blade clean of blood. The bloody towels went into the trashcan in a pull-out bin under the sink. Shawn pulled out the trashcan as soon as the man walked away. There was nothing there, just an empty bin.

"Shawn?"

He closed the drawer. Gus was leaning on the opposite end of the counter, staring down at the drawer.

"Nothing there anymore."

Gus raised an eyebrow. "See anything?"

"You mean like the killer? No name, but I've got his face up here." Shawn tapped the side of his head.

"Dude." They bumped fists over the counter. "We good here?"

Shawn closed his eyes briefly. Nothing else was coming to him, at least not in here. He glanced into the living room but Katherine's body was gone. The air smelled clear, fresh.

"We're done."

The look of relief on Lassiter's face was obvious. Shawn moved slowly through the living room, almost expecting another vision to hijack his sight. Nothing happened, not even the slightest tingle. Lassiter stepped away, giving him room to move past. He paused one last time and stared back. There was nothing here he hadn't seen in photos, but he still felt like he was missing something.

Lassiter leaned close while the manager locked up. "You saw the guy's face?"

"Yeah." Juliet flipped open a notepad. He spoke slowly for her, giving her time to write. "Young man, black spiky hair, square jaw, slight tan. Wore black clothing and heavy work boots. Clothing was slightly worn, but still good condition. Jeans looked almost new. Knife sheath attached to his belt."

"Height?"

Shawn glanced up at Lassiter. "Halfway between you and me."

"Build?"

"Stocky, slight bulge in the stomach but a good amount of muscle." He held out his hands to indicate a man several inches thicker than himself.

"You know," the manager turned towards the elevators. There was a line of red leading down the hall. "Katherine had a nice bird. Normally I don't like them so much, too noisy, but hers was an angel, at least when she was around." Shawn let the others walk ahead of him as he studied the red on the carpet. It wasn't solid. Rather, it trailed off in parts then picked back up again, like something had interrupted it. "Not like that noisy thing down on the third floor. New guy, name of Yates, Edward Yates, has a bird just like hers but this thing just won't shut up. I've had twelve complaints so far. Twelve, and the guy's barely been here a week."

The detectives filed into the elevator. Shawn walked past, following the line around the corner and down the hall. It led to a door. The knob turned easily in his hand and he stepped into a dimly lit stairwell. He had to go down. This is what was under. Under her apartment. He took the stairs two at a time. It made sense. New tenant with the same bird that happened to be missing from the crime scene, the guy coming here first thing from out of town. He was here, in this building.

How had he not seen this? It was so obvious in retrospect.

Shawn followed the trail of red to the third floor, back around the corner to room 303. The sounds of a loud bird cawing were slightly muffled by the walls. He knocked without thinking.

The door opened and Shawn came face to face with the man from his vision. Specifically, the killer.

This probably ranked very high on the list of stupidest things he'd done, ever.

"Hi!" Shawn blurted quickly, throwing a wide smile on his face. He held out his hand. "I'm your new neighbor from down the hall." He pointed to the left. "310, just that way."

The man didn't move but his brow furrowed. "And?"

"And," Shawn drew out the word, "I heard you had a bird. I love birds." He let his accent slip a little south - north of Georgia, south of Virginia, something nice and mild. "My ma had a bunch when I was little and I've always wanted to pick up a few. I'm new around here, so I was wondering if you knew any good stores. Not those chain things, but someplace that actually hand-raises their birds. You know, the social birds." He had quite possibly never been more thankful for the month spent at the exotic pet store.

The guy stepped back, silently inviting Shawn in. His fingers itched to reach down to his cellphone but there was no way to do so without being suspicious.

Magellan quieted as soon as Shawn stepped in the room. This was Katherine's bird. He could almost see her, superimposed over the cage. The guy had kept the cage. He'd probably taken it straight from her room after he'd killed her.

"What apartment did you say you moved into?"

"310." Shawn moved closer to the cage. "This is a beautiful bird you have here. What's it's name?"

"You don't look like Donna Lukavich."

"What?" No way the guy knew all his neighbors.

Magellan screeched and Shawn turned just in time to see a silver blade coming towards him.

*****

Carlton noticed something was missing as soon as the doors closed. He turned, taking a quick headcount. They were one short.

"Where's Spencer?"

Burton had been the last one in. "He wasn't out in the hall."

He couldn't have gone back into the vic's apartment, which meant he'd wandered off for some other reason. What had Spencer said about their suspect? New in town, had the bird, young man.

Carlton turned quickly and grabbed the over-weight manager by his shirt. "What apartment did you say the new guy was in?"

"What?"

"The new tenant!" He may have used unnecessary force when shaking the manager, but at least it felt good.

"Three... 303."

Carlton punched the button for the third floor and glared at the numbers as they slowly counted down from six.

"You don't think Shawn..." Burton sounded nervous.

O'Hara was staring at him. "So when Shawn said 'under'-"

Carlton stamped his foot. "He meant under. This guy's been right here, under our noses the entire time."

He could see the cogs turning in their heads as they caught up. The number four lit up above them.

"But, why move into the same building as someone you're planning to kill?" Burton asked. "Doesn't that make it kind of obvious?"

O'Hara answered before he could. "Maybe he wasn't planning on killing her. I mean, Shawn said they dated, right? So maybe he came back here hoping to rekindle things and found out she already had a boyfriend."

"And then offs her and takes back his bird," Carlton finished.

The elevator dinged, ending their conversation. He had his gun out before he set foot in the hall, safety off, low and at the ready. The door to room 303 was closed. There was a bird inside making a loud racket. He tried the handle. It was locked.

One nod to O'Hara was all it took to get the keys from the manager. She unlocked the door while he waited, hoping fervently that Shawn hadn't been stupid enough to get himself killed. The lock clicked. O'Hara tossed the keys back to Burton as Carlton entered the room. Out of the corner of his eye he saw O'Hara pulling out her pistol.

The door opened into a short hallway that ended in a larger room three paces down, much the same set up as Miss Marcen's room. He saw a man, a bird cage, and a figure on the floor. There was blood. The man was ignoring them. Carlton stepped closer and trained his gun on the man. He had black hair, a build like Shawn had described. Another step put him in sight of the man on the floor. That was Shawn, covered in blood. The man raised a knife.

He realized he'd squeezed the trigger only after he heard the gun go off, kicking his shoulder back. He'd forgotten to brace himself properly. He hadn't had time. His aim was perfect, perhaps not what he'd consciously been intending but the man, their killer, fell as the bullet bore a hole straight through his head.

Carlton switched the safety back on and shoved his gun in its holster. Shawn's eyes were wide, staring at where the man had been seconds ago. He blinked, one hand moving to press his shirt against the slash down his arm. Relief washed over Carlton as he realized Shawn was still alive, hurt but still breathing. Anger followed quickly after.

"What the hell were you thinking!?" His shout shut the bird up instantly. Shawn flinched. "You almost got yourself killed!"

Shawn's lips moved but Carlton couldn't hear what was said. He crouched down inches from Spencer's face.

"If you ever, ever do that again, you are out. You understand me?"

"I'm sorry," Shawn said. He wasn't looking at Lassiter.

Shawn's face was pale. There was blood on the carpet, more on Shawn's shirt.

Carlton swore and pushed Shawn flat on his back. "O'Hara, call an ambulance. Burton, find a pillow." He shrugged out of his jacket quickly, unbuttoned his shirt in seconds. The blue fabric turned crimson as he wrapped it around Shawn's arm, holding the limb up in an attempt to reduce blood loss.

"I'll be fine," Shawn muttered. He sounded tired.

Burton slipped the couch cushion he'd grabbed under Shawn's feet. He could hear O'Hara giving directions over the phone.

"You better be," Carlton said, his voice as low as Shawn's had been.

There was no way Shawn Spencer was dying on his watch. He wouldn't allow it.

*****

Six stitches, four hours, and several yards of bandages later and Shawn finally was allowed out of the hospital. He must have passed out at one point because Lassiter had been there one minute and gone the next. The jump from floor to hospital may have had something to do with that. He'd woken up to a doctor holding his arm, Gus holding his hand, and Juliet pacing in the hall.

They'd solved the case, one more bad guy off the street though he wasn't quite sure he was happy with how it all played out. He'd never seen Lassiter look so scared. He wondered what was going to happen to the bird.

The night air felt cool against his bare skin. He'd switched his blood-stained t-shirt for a spare he'd left in Gus's car, though there were still spots of blood on his jeans. He picked at them as Gus drove him home. Did they make detergent to get out blood? Maybe Lassy knew.

"Are you sure you don't want me to crash with you tonight?" Gus asked as he stopped in front of Shawn's apartment. "I mean, to help with the bandages and all that."

"I'll be fine."

Gus didn't look entirely convinced. It was somewhat uncharacteristic of Shawn to play down an injury, but he also wasn't planning on staying home, at least not for very long. He left Gus with multiple assurances that he would call if he needed anything.

His apartment was dark. Shawn didn't bother locking the door behind him, or turning on a light. He walked straight into his bedroom, pulling off clothing as he moved. A bit of light came in through the window, enough for him to aim his clothing in the vague direction of a corner before rummaging through his drawers for something clean. He debated a shower but that would require unwrapping and then rewrapping the bandages around his arm, and he really didn't trust himself with that right now.

The bathroom light shined far too bright, reminding him of the hospital. He stared down at the sink while he brushed his teeth. Water swirled around the sink. It reminded him of....

"Not tonight," Shawn murmured.

The water shut off. He wiped his mouth on the hand towel and flicked off the light, dropping him back into darkness. Shadows danced along the walls but he ignored them. He was alone, regardless of what he saw. One murder solved was enough for the day.

He called a cab on his way out the door.

*****

For what was probably the first time in his life, Shawn knocked on someone's door uncertain of what kind of reception he was going to get. It was late, but there was a faint bit of light on the other side of the curtains covering the window. He waited, counted to ten, then knocked again. Maybe Lassiter knew it was him. Not hard to figure out. Who else would be knocking on the detective's door close to four in the morning?

He wouldn't blame Lassiter for being mad at him. Shawn knew he'd messed up. Yeah, he'd found the killer, but they had no solid evidence. There was the bird. Photos flashed briefly through his mind and he knew exactly where they could find pictures to match the bird in the suspect's apartment to Magellan. All that proved was that he'd stolen the bird. Knife wounds would match between Katherine's chest and Shawn's arm, and they could prove that the two were former lovers. It was all circumstantial. Or at least, that's what a lawyer would say if they'd actually had a chance to take it to court. There would be no trial for this case. All the police had to prove they'd gotten the right guy was Shawn's word.

It shouldn't bother him so much that the police placed so much trust in his word, but it did, just a little.

The door opened, minutes after he'd last stopped knocking.

"Spencer." Lassiter almost sounded surprised.

"Hey." His hands were in his pockets. He smiled. It felt false.

Lassiter's gaze ran down Shawn's body. From anyone else, Shawn would have thought he was checking Shawn out. In a sense, Lassiter was - checking him for injuries.

"Can I come in?"

Lassiter stepped back, holding the door open for Shawn. He hadn't actually expected Lassiter to let him in. He hadn't really expected anything when he'd come here except maybe leaving disappointed.

"Thanks."

The door was locked behind him while Shawn kicked off his shoes, toeing them against the wall with a semblance of neatness.

He'd never been inside Lassiter's home before, though he'd often thought about what kind of house Lassiter lived in. He was a single man that lived in an entire house by himself, which meant it was either one hell of a bachelor pad or something inanely normal. Turned out it was the latter, though sparser than Shawn had pictured. The hallway was dark and uncluttered, just a rug running along the floor, a closed door to his left and two doorways across from each other down the hall a few feet in front of him. One was dark, the other lit.

He headed towards the light. Lassiter's living room was slightly better. Another rug, a plain couch that looked like it had seen better days - possibly something handed down from a grandmother. Matching lamps stood on tables at either end of the couch. Two armchairs finished a semi-circle in front of the rather large TV, one more worn than the other. Neither matched anything else in the room.

There were pictures on the wall but he ignored them for now. He wasn't in the mood for any more detective work. Shawn sat in the further of the two armchairs, the less used one. His arm froze an inch above the armrest and he shifted his arm so as not to put pressure on his wound.

"Why are you here?" The words were familiar, but they lacked Lassiter's usual biting tone.

Shawn's smile widened. Maybe he had something to hope for after all.

He shrugged in answer. There was a reason why he'd come to see Lassiter, reasons actually, but Shawn wasn't quite ready to put them into words. This was like his visions. He just leaped and trusted that he'd land on his feet.

Lassiter didn't sit down, but his eyes never left Shawn. Judging by the way he was fidgeting, Lassiter was suppressing the urge to pace. He had questions, questions about all of it, and they were just pooling inside of Lassiter's mind, filling it up until the detective had to feel like he was going to burst.

"Ask me." That wasn't what he'd been planning to say, but he went with it.

The detective just stared at him.

"Ask me," Shawn repeated, his tone as serious as he could make it.

Lassiter hesitated for a second, his expression uncertain. "How did you-"

He knew what Lassiter was trying to say. "Know where to find Katherine's killer? You probably won't believe me, but it was a hunch. I saw this line of red, and the manager mentioned the new guy with the bird and... it just all clicked. Like, poof, there was the answer."

"Line of red?"

Shawn just shrugged. "That's what I saw."

Lassiter moved around to sit on the arm of the other chair. His body language said he was unwilling to believe but there was a subconscious relaxation there that said he might actually have Lassiter convinced.

"Just like you saw the vic get murdered and you saw her bird the minute you first walked into that briefing room?"

He hesitated. There were two ways he could play this and he knew exactly how each would work out.

"I saw her, but I didn't see the bird until later."

Lassiter's jaw quite possibly dropped a few centimeters. He shifted forward on the chair arm. "You mean, you admit that you lied?"

"Yeah."

The mix of emotions on Lassiter's face intrigued him. There was relief mixed with smug satisfaction, topped with what might possibly be described as a close cousin to joy. "So, all along..."

"I lied." Admitting it didn't feel as terrifying as he'd thought it would.

Lassiter stood slowly. "And now? What about this case?"

Shawn rose to his feet slowly. "That was different." It took him six steps to cross to stand in front of Lassiter. "That was real. It's something of a 'be careful what you wish for' experience, except that I didn't wish for it and there was crime fighting involved."

"I should arrest you, you know. Obstruction of justice." Except Lassiter wasn't reaching for his gun or his handcuffs. Instead, he stared down at Shawn, his face a mask of calm.

"You won't, though I'd be more than happy to play with your handcuffs later. I solved cases for you. I still solve cases for you, I just have more of an unfair advantage now than I did before."

Lassiter quirked an eyebrow. "How did you do it before? How'd you know I was dating my partner when you'd just met us, or that Buzz was learning to dance?"

He leaned closer, lowering his voice as he did so. They were close now, almost touching, and he ached to bridge that gap. His instinct said wait. Just a little bit longer.

"Observation. I saw you touch her hair in the reflection on the one-way window and Buzz was practicing in the copy room while I was waiting in the hall." Lassiter opened his mouth to speak but Shawn kept going. "You've met my dad. He's a freak. I mean, I like him, now, but he's always been a real freak about the whole observation thing. He was training me to be a cop since I was seven. Seven! And, it's like, now I just can't shut it off. I just see things and they click, only now I see things in the mystical sense and they click too so it's..." He was talking too much. He needed to stop. "It's this big... clicky... thing."

"I'm just going to ignore that last part."

"Probably a good idea."

"So you're psychic." In a different situation, he would have been more excited about finally getting Lassiter to admit it. "Now what?"

It was as good a time as any.

Shawn stretched slightly, balancing on his toes as he bridged the short distance between their mouths. He closed his eyes and waited, expecting to be rejected. He wasn't. After a long, awkward moment, one of Lassiter's arms went around his waist to steady Shawn, lightly pushing him back down onto flat feet. Lassiter - Carlton, moved with him, his lips firm on Shawn's as he took control of the kiss.

Lips parted. Tongue met tongue and they danced, circling each other inside Shawn's mouth. It was nicer than he could have imagined and incredibly hot. Judging by the way Lassy was holding him, he thought so too.

Air shortly became a necessity. They broke apart slowly, only moving far enough apart to gasp a few lungfuls of air.

Shawn ran his fingers down the collar of Lassiter's shirt. "You wanna?"

"Yeah."

Lassiter's arm stayed around Shawn's waist as he lead Shawn upstairs. The bed was made, sheets tight, military style. Shawn was looking forward to messing them up. He smiled as he fell back on the bed, flat on his back, legs spread. Lassiter's attention stayed on him but he didn't move.

"Like what you see?"

"Yeah," Lassiter repeated, before finally joining Shawn on the bed.

The mattress dipped, sliding Shawn slightly towards Lassiter, his legs around the detective's own. They both reached forward at the same time, fingers sliding under shirts and unfastening pants. Lassiter's mouth distracted him from the details, at least until Lassiter started sliding Shawn's t-shirt up to his elbows.

"Watch your arm." The words were whispered against Shawn's mouth as Lassiter pulled away. Gentle hands pulled Shawn's t-shirt off, keeping the fabric from jostling against his injury.

Lassiter's gaze stayed on the bandages. His fingertips skimmed along the edge of the wrappings, far away from the actual wound. It made Shawn's nerves tingle in a pleasant way.

This wasn't what he wanted Carlton to focus on.

He moved his arm away, reaching between them to push Lassiter's pants down, taking Lassiter's boxers with him. Shawn wasn't disappointed with what he saw. If it was less late, if he'd been less tired, he would have considered sliding off the bed, dropping to his knees and taking Lassiter's thick erection into his mouth. Maybe later. Maybe tomorrow. Right now, he wanted something different. Shawn reached for Lassiter's shirt as Lassy reached for his pants.

The blankets were soft under his skin. Shawn slid up the bed and Lassiter followed, fumbling with something in the bedside table.

Slick fingers slid inside of him. Shawn didn't wait long before pushing them away. He rolled, somewhat surprised that Lassiter let him. There would be time for dominant/submissive play later on. He could imagine Lassiter holding him down, pinning Shawn to the bed while buried deep inside of him. He could imagine rope and handcuffs. When his arm was healed, he might have to talk Lassiter into it. Then again, maybe Lassiter didn't need to be talked into it.

Shawn sat up. He took Lassiter's erection into his hand, lifting his hips and positioning Lassiter at his entrance before sliding down. It felt good. He moved his hips, lifting himself up slowly before sliding back down onto Lassiter's cock. It ended too fast. His nerves had been all over the place today. He was strung tight. Lassiter's hand circled Shawn's erection and that was all he needed. He pitched forward as he came, catching himself on his forearms before he landed on Lassiter and wincing as pain shot along his arm.

They moved again and Shawn was on his back once more, his legs around Lassiter's hips, Lassiter's hands holding his hips up. Shawn pulled Lassiter's mouth down onto his own, kissing the cop as hard as he could. Lassiter came minutes later, breath escaping in a surprised gasp. His head landed on the pillow next to Shawn but he didn't move further than that.

"Hey." Shawn's voice broke the quiet of the room. "Does this mean I can work on more cases?"

He felt Lassiter's chuckle against his chest. "I might be able to put in a good word."

Shawn didn't need a vision to tell him that this was quite possibly the beginning of a great partnership.