Shawn ran into the kitchen, the local events section of the morning's paper clutched in his small hands.
"Dad! Dad! There's a convention in town. Can we go?"
Henry Spencer folded down the section of the paper he'd been reading – only the news and he always skipped to the crime reports first, like a kid going straight to the comics – to give Shawn one of his patented stares. "Shawn, there's always a convention in town. You weren't clamoring to go when the dental conference was in town."
He gave his dad a disgruntled glare. His father was missing the point. "No, dad, not that kind of conventions. That's boring." He drew out the word for emphasis. "There's a comic convention in town. Can we go? Canwegocanwegocanwego?" He was bouncing, breathless, by the time he got done talking.
"No, Shawn. Comics are a waste of money and they give cops a bad. You don't need to be filling your mind with that kind of trash."
"Dick Tracey's a comic book character and he's a cop," Shawn pointed out, feeling a momentary surge of triumph.
Henry raised an eyebrow. "You're read Dick Tracey?"
He fleetingly debated lying. "No." His mind worked quickly to give him another opening. "But I could, if we went to the convention."
"You and I both know that's not what you're going to read. The answer is still no."
Really, he should have known better than to try. His dad never let him do anything fun.
"But, daaaaad..." Shawn whined.
"Not happening, kid." Henry folded his paper back up to hide his face behind a wall of black and white print. "Hey, there's a hardware show in a few weeks. We could go to that."
Shawn left the paper on the table and stormed off.
It was so cold. Shawn curled onto his side, pulling his legs up to his chest in a futile attempt to preserve some of his body's warmth. He was having trouble remembering what it was like being warm. It'd been so long. Not that long really, in the cosmic span of things, but in terms of how long Shawn wanted to spend trapped here it was far too long. He tugged on his wrists. Icy metal dug sharply into his skin. He was trapped. Still trapped. Forever trapped.
The sweet sounds of Credence Clearwater brought him sharply out of his dream.
Shawn bolted upright in bed. Not his bed, but warmer and more comfortable than the one he'd dreamt about. He shivered, still feeling the cold tugging at his limbs, and pulled the blankets tight around himself as he reached for the phone. His father, calling thankfully late in the day for him though still relatively early in the morning for Shawn. He didn't bother looking for a clock. The position of the sun crawling across Carlton's floor gave him all the information he needed to know. It was before noon, well after breakfast hours. Shawn answered the phone on the third ring.
"No, dad," he said before Henry could begin.
"Shawn, you haven't even let me ask-"
"Because I know what you're going to say." Shawn sighed. He could feel his daily headache starting already, like it usually did the minute he made it to full consciousness without Lassiter around. He reached for the three Advil, already set out on his side of the bed and popped them in his mouth.
"Shawn, there's no way you know what I was going to say, so let me just-"
He mumbled a reply around his pills.
Shawn downed the half-glass of water that had been waiting beside the pills, swallowing the pills with the water. It was still a little cold. Carlton must not have left all that long ago.
"I said, I'm not interested in a blind date. I'm not lonely." Even if he was lonely, the last thing he needed was his father setting him up on a blind date. The poor girl would probably be too timid to even talk back to Shawn, let alone get to any of the naughtier things he liked. A wicked smile crossed his face. Lassiter was so good at the naughty stuff.
He heard his father pause on the other end of the line. Henry blustered for a few minutes. "I wasn't going to..."
Shawn sighed again, and rubbed at his temple. He rolled over onto Lassiter's half of the bed, tuning his father out. The sheets were cool to the touch, but the pillow still smelled of Carlton. He pressed his face into it and breathed deeply. After a few seconds of that, his headache started to fade. He tuned back into what his father was saying.
"...really nice girl, and I just think if you..."
"Dad." The last thing he wanted right now was a girl. Thanks to Lassiter, he'd developed an addiction to muscles and stubble and the smell of gun oil. Girls had been ruined for him, at least temporarily.
Henry stopped talking. This was not the first time over the last two months that his dad had tried to set him up with a friend's daughter or a nice waitress he met, though at least the last few times he'd been subtle enough about it that Shawn could ignore it and pass it off like his dad hadn't been trying to set him up.
He couldn't fault Henry. He knew why his dad was trying so hard and it was Shawn's fault, mostly. They never talked, which was equally each of their faults, but the current situation was Shawn's fault for not mentioning that he was off the market.
"I'm not alone," Shawn admitted quietly. He meant that in more than just the romantic sense, and had a feeling his father had interpreted it correctly. "I'm not sad or lonely or any of those things. I'm fine. Really."
There was a long silence. Shawn stretched out under the covers, smiling at the feel of soft bed sheets against his naked skin. He wanted to stay here forever, but hunger and the need to tease a certain stoic Irishman would eventually drag him out of bed.
"Shawn... I've noticed... I mean... you've been different. All that fake psychic stuff... It's different. Now."
He resisted the urge to smother himself in Carlton's pillow. There were a lot of things he'd yet to talk to Henry about. The whole actually being psychic was one such unbroached topic. Lassiter was the other huge one. He'd never been close to his father, and while it was easy to tell Gus or even complete strangers that he was a real psychic... a real, gay psychic... telling his father the same thing.... The thought of it filled Shawn with dread.
"I am different, dad. But..." His head started to pound in time with the clock in Lassiter's living room. Stress did that, he knew. It made him more open to the mystical-whatever currents in the air around him. "But we can talk about that later. I need to get to work, to get to the station."
They said their awkward goodbyes after that. Shawn hung up, clutched his phone in his hand as he stared across the plane of the bed sheets. One of these days, he'd get together the guts to talk to his father about all the things hanging over them.
Today was not that day.
There was something secretive buzzing in the air as he walked into the Santa Barbara Police Department. People were smiling at him, no, grinning at him, more than they usually did. This wasn't the 'oh, look, everyone's favorite psychic is in' smiles but something distinctively... festive. He wondered if it was some kind of holiday or anniversary, because it certainly wasn't his birthday and there was no reason for them to be smiling so much at him if it was someone else's birthday.
Giddy quiet fell over the squad room as he walked in. He was being watched by pretty much every detective and aid in the office. Hell, even the janitor was smiling at him, in a quiet, bemused sort of way as he pushed his cart of cleaning supplies around the edges of the room. Something was different and the officers were definitely waiting for him to notice, waiting for some kind of show.
Shawn smiled back at them and walked further into the room. He turned as he walked, scanning his eyes over the room. His gifts were being distinctly silent on this, as they usually were when it applied to his own life or Carlton. Likely, Carlton had been involved in the change. He glanced towards Lassiter's office and stopped.
Margie, the ghost of a police woman who haunted the station, was grinning like a loon and bouncing with excitement. She sat on Lassiter's desk, swinging her feet back and forth through the wood. The detective and his partner were suspiciously absent. Margie giggled and he let his gaze move away from her. A nearby desk caught his attention.
It stood at the back of the bullpen, in one of the open recesses that pocketed the building. It was at once part of the chaos that filled the police station, and separated from it. Shawn remembered every detail of the police station. That desk hadn't been there yesterday. The alcove had been home to filing cabinets, full of old cases, some dating back to Shawn's father. There'd been boxes stacked on top of and around those, and then a coat rack in front of it. In short, it had been a place to shove things that was both out of the way and still accessible, things that might be needed in the near future.
His feet carried him straight towards the desk. In the background, he could hear the voices of the station buzzing with excitement, and he knew he'd gotten it right. This was what he was supposed to notice, which begged the question of why. He ruled out the prospect of a new detective coming into the station. It wasn't set up right for that, and it would have been closer to the rest of the officers, likely paired up with another officer's desk.
He ran his fingers over the finished wood as he circled the desk. Since developing his psychic gifts, he'd built up a reluctance to touch. Objects, particularly those that had been well-used, or well-loved, gave off a type of resonance. They hummed with what they were and who they belonged to, almost like they were saying 'look at me, look at me, this is what I've done'. This desk held none of that, but he could sense in the wood a promise, and a faint hint of a familiar presence. A smile was threatening to split his face and he let it. His grin stretched wider with each step. There was little on the desk, just a small lamp and a stack of notepads. If he opened the top right drawer, he'd find more notepads and an abundance of pens and post-it notes. No one used this desk, not yet, but they were meant to. The lack of a name plate gave it away.
He pulled out the chair – not standard police issue, someone had to have brought it here, for him – and sat, pressing his palms flat against the wood. No bad images came to mind and when he looked - purposefully looked - all he got was a brief flash of a warehouse, a factory before that, and the scene of a peaceful forest.
"This is new." He didn't bother to hide his amazement.
A suit jacket – and the man wearing it – leaned against the edge of the desk, the fabric of the edge of the jacket brushing against Shawn's elbow. Carlton – Head Detective Carlton Lassiter of the Santa Barbara Police Department – shrugged nonchalantly. "We didn't have any spare."
Carlton was lying, but that just made Shawn smile more.
"I'm touched, and for once, not in my naughty place." He kept his voice light and low, speaking just loud enough for Carlton to hear him and no one else. He couldn't hide the emotion shining in his eyes as he looked up at Carlton. He wasn't known for his discretion, but he respected Carlton's desire for privacy enough not to make a big show out of their relationship. That, and he enjoyed having a new secret to keep from the department now that his last was gone, though it was really a secret in name only. There were soft whispers around the room as the other cops slowly drifted back to work. More than a few were sporting soft smiles, glancing every now and then back at where Shawn and Carlton were.
Of course, like all of his big secrets, everyone already knew.
It was nice to know that the office was full of open-minded officers. If anyone had an objection to him and Lassiter being together, they kept it tightly buried. Shawn had yet to pick up any negative feelings towards them – no anger, no disgust, no jealousy. If anything, Lassiter seemed to have gone up in the opinion of the other officers, though it was hard to say whether that was due to the fact that Lassiter was with Shawn or simply because Carlton was more laid-back now and thus more lenient with his fellow cops.
Regular sex had that effect on people.
He smiled up at Carlton. "I already have a desk, you know," he teased. "A whole office, in fact."
Lassiter shrugged. "You're here enough. This just gives you a place to work while you're here, besides hovering at the corner of my desk." Shawn grinned at that. He knew for a fact that Carlton liked his hovering, particularly when he sat on the edge of Carlton's desk in the tight jeans that hugged his hips like a second skin. "Don't think this is an invitation to bring in any of that tacky junk you seem so fond of," Carlton continued in his stern, 'I'm big, bad, and authoritarian' voice. "I've seen your office. That kind of mess won't be tolerated here."
Translation: feel free to decorate, just keep it tasteful, like you actually do work here instead of laze around.
"Wouldn't dream of it." He saw potted plants and stuffed animals dressed as cops in his future. He wondered if he could get a cop bear and a fake-now-real psychic bear and have them inconspicuously holding bear paws on his desk. There was a slim chance that no one would notice. Margie and Juliet would think it was cute, though that begged the question of what a Shawn-bear would look like.
"And don't think this means you have to hang around here. We are actually capable of solving cases without your help."
Translation: as much as I love you, you're not expected to pull insane hours like the rest of us, but you're welcome to come in whenever you'd like, because you will regardless of how many times I tell you to go home and sleep like a normal person.
He might have embellished Lassiter's words a bit, but he knew Lassy was actually thinking it, somewhere in that dark, brooding head of his.
"Of course. I won't be in your way."
Translation: I'll get on my knees for you anywhere in the building, and do feel free to use your handcuffs. Bonus points if you can procure the security feed of it so we can watch it later.
The way Lassiter stared at him almost made Shawn think his psychic powers were rubbing off. Or maybe it was just his lecherous grin.
"Right..." Lassiter slowly pushed away from the desk.
"So." Shawn spun his chair to follow Carlton's movements. "What have you got for me today, Wonder Cop?"
The glare Lassiter shot him made Shawn's day.
Carlton walked to his desk – a short distance away, his office was in speaking distance of Shawn's desk – and returned with a small stack of manila folders. They landed with a heavy thunk in front of Shawn. He glanced up at Lassiter with a small grin and pulled a pen and a stack of post-its from inside his desk, setting them to the side.
In the past few months, since the awakening of his full-fledged psychic abilities, he'd been added on as an official paid consultant with the department. Any time they needed a tip on a case or were looking for some hint to point them in the right direction, they came to him. He helped them when they needed to find evidence, when they weren't sure which theory to go with or which line of questioning would get the best results. They still did most of the real work. Shawn was just there for guidance. They were there as a buffer between Shawn and all the real danger.
He didn't even bother opening the files as he went through them.
The first gave him a flash of a small child and he grimaced, feeling the cold chill of death fall over him. He tasted dirt, felt gravel against his palms. They needed to find the body in order to get a conviction. "Manillo Park, by the swing set." He drew a map on one of the post-it notes, labeled it with the street address, and put a mark over the spot where they needed to look. He stuck the post-it to the front and moved the folder aside quickly, not wanting any more images of that case floating through his head.
The next file had a happier ending. Lost cat, belonging to a friend of the mayor. Officer Greenly had been handed the case and was desperate to prove himself. He was new, and the lowest on the totem pole. "It got hit by a car, check with Mercy Vet." He noted the name of the Vet and the doctor to talk to, then moved to the next.
Robbery case. He saw a kid holding up a convenience store, hood covering his face, fake gun in his hands though the clerk was too unobservant to tell. Shawn would never have fallen for such a cheap con. "Jenison James. 19. Stupid punk that's seen too many gangster movies. Doesn't even own a gun. He lives at 256 West Sunset." Shawn noted the name and address, and moved the folder – the last in the original pile - to the new pile that was forming to his right and raised his eyebrow at the detective.
"Not even a challenge. Say, do you want to..." He looked Carlton up and down suggestively.
"No!" The detective blushed, then hid it by coughing.
"I was going to say 'go for coffee.'" That was definitely not what he was going to say.
Carlton straightened his tie and started to walk away. "That's all I have. Why don't you go bother Guster?"
Shawn spun in his chair and raised his volume to carry to Lassiter. "Nope, no can do. One lousy performance review and suddenly he's all gung-ho about his real job." He felt slightly guilty about that. They'd had a sudden onslaught of private cases recently, as word of Shawn's new accuracy spread, which meant Gus had been helping him deal with clients instead of doing his rounds. Shawn had had to temporarily close the Psych office so that Gus could get caught up. The increase in work for Shawn at the station, and the workspace that accompanied it, couldn't have come at a better time. He could help out here while Gus was taking care of his pharmacy work, and then once Gus was more secure in his position, they'd try to work out a better balancing act. Of course, it also helped that the Police Department was paying him a salary.
"I'm your oyster," Shawn announced. "Do with me as you wish."
Lassiter stared at him. "That's not how that quote works."
"But it could. Don't worry, I'd let you have my pearl any day."
His words had the intended effect of making Carlton choke on air. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Margie giggling. She hopped to her feet and danced through the station, twirling briefly around Lassiter and passing Shawn's desk with a grin. "I'm pretty sure he does have your pearl, every day."
Lassiter shifted on his feet, oblivious to the ghost's teasing. "Coffee sounds good."
Shawn was on his feet in an instant. He followed Lassiter out of the station with a smile and a bounce in his steps.
True to his word, Lassiter did take him to get coffee. Some days, he thought the home coffee pot was the best invention known to mankind. Shawn was in no hurry to get back to the station. He'd followed Lassiter into the kitchen, waiting until the detective had his hands busy filling the machine before dropping to his knees on the kitchen tile and unzipping Carlton's pants.
"Shawn! What are you-nnnggghhh." Lassiter's words trailed into a heated groan as Shawn took him into his mouth. Carlton's member was still mostly soft, but growing quickly as Shawn swallowed it down. He hummed happily as the constant psychic mental buzz died off. Above him, he heard plastic rattle as Carlton fumbled with the coffee maker. He smiled as he sucked on Carlton, doing his best to make it sound as loud and lurid as possible.
He heard the coffee maker beep and whir as it started up, and then two hands grabbed him by the hair and pulled him off. Shawn pursed his lips, ending the impromptu blow job with a loud pop. Carlton pulled Shawn to his feet and turned him, shoving him so that he was sprawled face-down over the kitchen table. His hands pressed flat against the wood. He braced his forehead on one arm, spread his legs and whimpered slightly in anticipation. Knowing fingers slipped inside his jeans pocket and pulled out a foil-sealed packet of lube, tossing it onto the table next to Shawn's head before quickly shoving Shawn's pants down.
"Came prepared?" He could hear the grin in Lassiter's voice, then felt it as strong hands ran possessively over his backside. The smell of dark roast and hazelnut filled the kitchen as the coffee percolated.
"For you, always."
Carlton swatted him lightly on the ass, not hard enough to hurt but enough that it made Shawn tense and sigh in pleasure. His sigh turned into a loud moaned as one of Carlton's fingers pressed against his entrance. He shifted his feet wider apart to make room for Carlton behind him, pressing his ass backwards in encouragement. The finger pulled away and then returned with friends, slick enough that Shawn could only moan in pleasure as they pressed inside of him. He only had a moment to enjoy the feeling of Carlton's fingers exploring, roaming over familiar territory before they were pulled away. Shawn made a small whimper of protest but his disappointment didn't last long.
He shivered as Carlton pushed inside of him, his erection hot and thick and fully hard. Shawn's breath hitched as Carlton sank in until his hips were tight against Shawn's backside. It was a wonder how he'd ever managed to live without this. Carlton filled him, stretching Shawn in a way that mixed faint pain with delicious pleasure. And this was just the start, just the warm up before Carlton....
"Oh, god." Shawn's hips bumped against the table as Carlton thrust hard into him. He grasped feebly at the table, scrabbling for purchase to steady himself enough to push back into Carlton's next thrust and keep his hips from hitting the table edge again. He didn't want to try to explain why his hips were bruised when they got back to the police station. That, and it'd ruin the entire effect he'd been going for by wearing low, hip-hugger jeans today.
"You like that, Shawn?"
His responding shiver had nothing – okay, maybe a little – to do with Lassiter's cock and everything to do with the possessive growl in Carlton's voice. He loved it when Carlton tried to talk dirty.
"Yeah." He didn't have to feign the breathlessness of his voice. That was all Lassiter's doing. "Oh, god, yeah. Fuck me harder. Please. Please, Carlton, fuck me."
Carlton's hips slammed forward hard enough to knock Shawn off balance. He moaned wantonly.
"That hard enough for you?"
Shawn's mouth was leading him in directions that meant he wouldn't be getting any real work done today.
"No," he moaned.
Carlton's hips smacked against his ass hard enough to make him scream. Carlton had managed to find the perfect angle to push inside of Shawn and hit his prostate, striking the same spot over and over again. His breath came out in short, needy moans, filling the kitchen with their wanton sound.
He was seeing stars. Gay little stars of well-fucked pleasure.
"Yes, yes, yes. Please. Oh, god, harder."
He wasn't above begging. He found it worked quite well with Lassiter, particularly when Shawn happened to be on his knees. That kind of begging, though, really didn't require words.
They didn't have too long before someone started to question where they were. Not that it was much of a concern, Shawn was brimming on the edge of release and he could tell Lassiter wasn't far off.
"I'm gonna fuck you so hard, you won't be able to sit straight." Shawn doubted he could do much straight anymore, not that he was complaining. He was going to be feeling this for the rest of the day. Every time he sat down, his body was going to remind him just how recently he'd had Lassiter inside of him.
"Not straight," Shawn pointed out between gasps. He was so close. Just a few more thrusts, deep inside of him, just another word.
"No," Carlton agreed. "Mine."
That was it, right there. Low, growled words did things to his cock that a hand never could. His body clenched as he came, trembling against Lassiter's kitchen table. The tightening of his muscles only made Carlton feel even thicker inside of him. The detective growled again, shoving forward with brutal force. He slammed into Shawn once, twice, a third time, then grunted as he came. Even then, he didn't stop moving until almost a full minute later, his hips gradually stilling.
Their labored breathing was the only sound in the kitchen.
Carlton didn't move. Shawn didn't want him to. There was no way he was going to be able to sit at that desk, ever, and not think of Carlton's cock inside of him. He wondered if he could talk Lassiter into trying some things with toys. They made long range remotes for sex toys nowadays, though it might be hard to explain the buzzing.
"I think I'm gonna want to go out for coffee again tomorrow," Shawn said with a wide grin on his face.
Lassiter just smirked.
Shawn hummed to himself as he walked into the police station, walking a few paces in front of Lassiter, who somehow thought that not walking in together was any less suspicious after they'd announced – publicly – that they were going out for coffee together. Their secret was safe, regardless.
Margie – who was had moved to sit on Shawn's desk, a pale shadow hidden in the corner of the bullpen – winked at them knowingly. It was only slightly disconcerting that the largest advocate of his relationship with Lassiter was a ghost that had been old enough to be his grandmother before she'd died.
As they passed Vick's office, the chief's voice called out, stopping them. "Boys! In here."
At a wave from Carlton, Juliet was out of her chair and heading towards the office. They stepped inside.
Shawn bowed with a flourish. "How may my humble psychic services aid you today?"
"You and humble have no business being in the same sentence together," Carlton groused from close behind him.
Shawn mock-pouted at his lover and dropped into a chair, wincing slightly as pain shot through his lower back. He quickly schooled his face into a wide grin and looked up at his lover. "You wound me. Deeply."
A smile crossed Vick's face before being carefully hidden behind a bland mask. He could hear her thoughts like she'd spoken, itching to tell them to stop flirting in her office. The words stayed trapped behind her lips. Saying them would mean admitting that she knew Shawn and Carlton were in a relationship, which was a blatant violation of department policy. Shawn sent her a grin in thanks. Carlton was oblivious to the entire silent exchange.
"I have a case for you," Vick announced as Juliet joined them. She picked up a stack of folders from the corner of her desk and dropped them in front of Shawn.
In the olden days, he would have been eager to reach for them and memorize as much as he could before Lassiter took them away. Now, he had all the access he wanted and he hesitated. He didn't want to jump in without knowing exactly what he'd be seeing. There were certain cases he refused to touch, and Carlton had gotten good at screening Shawn from those, keeping him as far away from the hard evidence as possible.
Lassiter picked up the first of the files and started reading through the stack, handing each off to Juliet as he finished.
"We have a serial killer on the loose," Vick said, her attention mostly on Shawn. "What was originally a disjointed set of murders seems to be the work of one person, centered around the Santa Barbara Convention Center. The murders have been weeks apart, so we're just now getting the connection between the cases." She glanced pointedly at Shawn. "There's a chance we're missing some victims."
"You are," Shawn answered automatically. He blushed slightly when Vick shot him a pointed look and forced himself to continue down that line of thought. The office disappeared around him momentarily, shifting to a swirling sea of faces. "There have been seven deaths total. Some of the bodies haven't been found yet. Some were deemed unrelated."
Lassiter was watching him carefully when he came back to full consciousness. "What's the motive? Why these particular victims?"
No answers came to mind immediately. All he got was a certainty that the convention center was the focus to the case. "It's something about the conventions. They were killed because they were there."
"I want the three of you to go there," Vick announced. She smiled, coming as close to a mischievous look he'd ever seen on her face, though there was still a hint of her usual scowl mixed in. Vick reached into the side drawer of her desk and dropped a pamphlet on the table next to the file folders. "I doubt you'll have any trouble fitting in."
Shawn stared between Vick and the pamphlet with a sense of dread. "Can't we go next week? Maybe during a nice fetish weekend? Seriously, I'd take a dental hygienists convention over that."
Out of the corner of his eye he watched Lassiter groan and Juliet try not to laugh. On the desk, the pamphlet mocked him with vibrant, taunting colors. Vick said nothing but her expression was unamused and unrelenting. He groaned.
"A psychic convention? Really?"
Juliet's grin widened. "Aww. Come on, Shawn, it'll be fun."
"Dealing with one fake psychic was enough, Chief." Lassiter's hand settled lightly on Shawn's shoulder, taking the sting out of his words.
Vick turned her stern glare on the trio. "This is not up for discussion." She gave Shawn a pointed look. "The department will be covering your rooms. Try to keep the bill reasonable."
He gave her his most innocent smile and wondered how many pineapple smoothies counted as reasonable.
"Understood," Lassiter answered for him, shooting Shawn a similarly pointed look. "That all, Chief?"
She nodded and waved for them to vacate. Juliet headed back towards her desk to make hotel arrangements. Carlton guided Shawn into the conference room between Vick and Lassiter's offices. There was a pair of whiteboards on wheels at the back of the room. They'd been added recently, for him to use with his visions. Carlton dropped the folders on a table and spread them out. There were four total, which left three victims that they still needed to connect to the case. Lassiter flipped open the first of the folders and pulled out a photo, then handed it to Shawn.
The smiling face of a middle-aged brunette woman stared at him from the photo. He taped it to one corner of a white board. A name came to mind immediately and he labeled the photo "Gini Truesdale". Slowly, he started to pick up other pieces of information about the woman. His mind was filling in the woman's life for him, piece by piece. Most of it he ignored as inconsequential. He didn't need to know who she'd gone to high school prom with, or what the name of her fifth grade science teacher was, but that was what came to him. The information was important to her, defining pivotal points of her life that had made her the person she had been, just before her death. Her life played back at him in disjointed bits, working towards the events that had led to her death.
He got a flash of the convention center and started writing. As information that he thought was connected filtered through his senses, he scribbled on the board. He doubted it made sense to Lassiter. He used abbreviations. Words overlapped, written haphazardly as his mind connected information in his head with free space on the board. Visions flashed faster through his mind, flickering the pieces of film on an old movie reel – a cold and empty room, a high ceiling, speaking in front of a packed room, loud applause, dinner at the bar.
Lassiter's hand settled briefly on the small of his back, snapping Shawn from his visions.
It was like a breath of fresh air flowing through his mind, clearing away the impending sense of death as his mind had sped through her last moments. Shawn leaned into the touch. Rolling his head back slightly, he shoot Lassiter a grateful smile.
"Am I interrupting?" Juliet asked from the doorway, her voice thick with humor.
Carlton pulled away quickly. Shawn pouted slightly at the absence of his touch. "We were just going over the case."
Shawn stared at his jumbled notes. "What's in the file?"
Lassiter glanced at the papers from the folder, spreading them like a halo around the folder. "Mother of three. From San Francisco. In town for a crafts faire. Was reported missing the day after the convention by her husband. The investigating officer asked the convention organizers about her involvement in the event. She'd had a pretty popular stall, and had hosted a panel on Friday night, but never showed up for the second or third day. They'd assumed she'd sold out and left early. Body was found near an overpass at the edge of town seven weeks after she was reported missing. No cameras on the dump site, and any trace on the body had been washed off by the rain the night she'd been dumped."
He nodded along as Lassiter spoke, crossing off things from his own list as Carlton mentioned them. "She was held in a building. Something big with high ceilings, windows only along the top of the walls, at least two stories in that room, dark and cold." He shivered, remembering his dream from the morning. It was eerily similar. "The lack of heating makes me think it was abandoned. She was popular at the convention. Whatever her craft was..." Images of a table full of goods flashed across his vision. "Basket weaving. She was good at it. A pro. She taught some of the people there. Her panel was packed, popular."
They moved through the rest of the victims in a similar pattern. A doctor, a poet, and a dentist joined Gini in filling up the corners of the board. He made columns on the second board, lining it with text until they could find the pictures to go with the victims. With each new face, more of the puzzle came together. They'd all been kept in that same building, cuffed to a bed. He kept seeing it over and over again. Always only that one room. He let the thoughts flitter from his brain out of his mouth.
"They were either knocked out or blindfolded when they were brought there. I'm not getting anything between the convention center and where they were kept, though there is a sense of distance. The killer transported them somehow – trunk, truck, crate... who knows"
"Where were they being kept?" Juliet asked. She hovered over his shoulder, reading over the notes he'd made and slowly copying them down. They looked neater on paper, all nice and organized.
"I don't know." Shawn felt rough cotton under his skin and cold metal around his wrists. He stared up, a long way up, to the ceiling overhead. It was too dark to make out details. Faint light came in from the windows overhead. Parts of the windows were blocked off, others too crowded with dirt to let much light through. "It's a big building. No labels on the inside, nothing to distinguish it. They were handcuffed to a bed in a big room, at least two stories high, possibly more. The room's empty, no sign of what it used to be before the killer started using it as his playground. Everything's been stripped away except for the furniture. There's not even a poster on the walls or a loose nail. It had been cleaned well whenever it'd been originally closed up, or the killer had cleaned it before he started using it."
"What about the area?"
Shawn shook his head. His brain was silent on that front. "I've got nothing." He stared at the photos. The original set of victims was on the left board, the rest on the right. Carlton had sent a handful of officers to dig up the old case files for the victims without pictures. Words beneath each of the sentences jumped out at him. "But I think I've got a connection." He walked from left to right, pointing out each victim. "Expert basket weaver. Revered dentist. Guest poet. Master surgeon." He moved onto the second board. "Famous tattoo artist. Popular blogger. Winner of the debate competition."
He spun around to face the two detectives. "All of these people," he waved his arms widely at the two boards, "were chosen by the killer because they were good at something. Not just good, experts. They were the stars of these conventions."
It took a moment for the significance of Shawn's words to work its way through the detectives' brains. Carlton's eyebrow lifted. He smirked, his face shifting into that smug look he always got when he had a plan that Shawn wasn't going to like. "We can use that. You're known in the area. We can play up your fame at the convention, maybe seed it with some of your past clients. Throw a couple plain-clothes cops in, trailing you at all times and we'll lure the killer out."
Juliet looked between the two men with a frown. "There's no guarantee that the killer's going to pick someone from this convention. There was a gap between the first few victims."
"And it's been getting shorter," Shawn pointed out. He looked at the timelines marked beside each of the victims. He pointed between victims seven and eight, the tattoo artist and the poet. "He kept the tattoo artist for longer than most of the others, and picked up the poet less than three weeks after the poet had been killed. His next victim is either going to come from this convention or the next."
"I don't like using you as bait, Shawn," Juliet protested. "We can get a stand in, someone you can teach to pretend to be psychic. It's going to look suspicious if you and Lassiter start attending every convention."
Shawn shook his head. Foreboding pooled like lead in his stomach. "It won't work. He's smart enough to be able to spot a fake. And you're right, we're going to need bait for the next convention, but I don't think it'll stand out if the three of us are at both conventions. He's got to know the police are on to him sooner or later."
Lassiter nodded. "Us being there is like vindication. He knows we know, but he thinks he's too smart to get caught."
"What if he just goes into hiding once he figures out the cops are on to him?"
Shawn found his eyes drawn back to the board. There was a sense of urgency with the recent victims. All of this, all of the murders, they were building towards something. "He won't be able to stop. He's got a taste for it, whatever he's doing with the bodies. Maybe it's just the control. He's not going to stop until we catch him, and he's going to do his damnedest not to get caught." Shawn paced between the boards, trying to get a sense of the killer. "He's smart, or thinks he is. That's why he's going after all of the famous people. He wants something from them. So, we need to make him want something from me. I have to stand out. Maybe on the second day. I could do something, one of my usual stunts and just start reading people right and left. There's no way he won't be able to notice."
"Good thinking, Spencer." From the look Carlton shot him, he knew Lassiter was proud of him, probably thinking about what a great detective Shawn was turning out to be.
He forced a grin back and tried not to think too hard about their plan. He had a feeling that this wasn't going to end well. But, that's what he had Lassiter for. Lassiter would protect him. He always did.
Still, Shawn couldn't help but feel a bit apprehensive.
They arrived at the hotel late on Thursday night, two days after they'd officially started the case. Shawn wandered the lobby while Carlton and Juliet checked them in. Not all the victims had stayed at the same hotel, so they'd picked the one that the majority had stayed with. Shawn had a feeling it wouldn't make a difference. The hotel was very standard as hotels went. Shawn had stayed in dozens of hotels across the country. After a while, they all started looking the same. This one had lots of red, plush carpeting, a Japanese restaurant down the hall from the lobby. It wasn't the best hotel he'd ever stayed in, but it was up there. Likely moderate on the price range, otherwise Vick wouldn't have let them stay there.
He wondered if it would be too obvious if he asked Lassiter to get a suite with a hot tub in it.
So many people had moved through this lobby, walked where he walked. He could feel them all around him. All of them. If he let himself go enough, he knew he would be able to see them too, name them, maybe even be them for a short while. It was overwhelming having access to all that information, overwhelming and frightening. He tucked his hands into his armpits and avoided brushing close to anything, unsure what kind of residue he'd pick up.
His phone rang. He didn't have to look to know who it was. At least he got one good perk out of the whole involuntary psychic thing – no more need for caller ID. It was pretty late for the old man to be calling, especially since they'd already talked a few days ago. "Yes, dad?"
"Shawn. How are things going? I hear you've got another case."
He suppressed a groan. Really, he shouldn't be surprised that word had already gotten to his father. Likely, he'd known the day Shawn had gotten the case and then restrained himself from calling for a few days so it didn't look like he was obviously keeping tabs on his son.
"Yeah." Shawn glanced around to make sure he wasn't in hearing distance of anyone. He was alone in the lobby, apart from the detectives several yards away and the lone receptionist. From the looks of it, Lassiter was haggling amenities. No hot tub for him. "Murders at the convention center. I'm going undercover... as myself. It's rather odd. I'm officially here in an unofficial capacity." He purposely neglected to mention that he was also the bait. Thankfully, no one besides Lassiter, Juliet, and Vick knew that choice piece of information.
"I don't think this is a good idea, Shawn. You're going to be in a room full of people who make a living pretending to be psychic. I'm not sure your usual antics are going to cut it. What if the suspect finds out you're a fake working with the police? Or, worse, what if the police find out you're faking? You could lose your job with the department." Trust his dad to put death as secondary to not being a sort-of-detective anymore.
A number of possible retorts flitted through his head, all discarded as being either too serious or too flippant. He settled for a vague shade of the truth. "I don't think that'll be a problem, dad. I've gotten pretty good at the whole psychic thing." He glanced over at the reception desk. The two detectives were still engrossed in conversation with the receptionist, though judging by the look on Juliet's face, the conversation was going to end very quickly once she finally snapped. "And you don't have to worry about the police finding out. They've upped my case load recently. They're not going to drop me all of a sudden."
He neglected to point out that they knew more of the truth than Henry did at the moment.
"Look, just because you can fool the detectives down at the station – and I still want to know how you got Detective Lassiter to drink your special kool-aid – doesn't mean you can fool the pros. What if-"
"Dad," Shawn cut him off. "It's going to work. I..." The words froze on the tip of his tongue. He wanted to tell his father, he really did, but he was so used to Henry disregarding everything he said out of hand. Henry wasn't going to believe him unless he showed him. "Look, there's something I need to tell you, about the whole 'fake psychic' thing, but it's really the 'best done in person' kinda thing."
"I could do dinner," Henry offered, the standard olive branch between them.
Shawn carefully concealed a sigh of relief. "I'm game. Next week? Wednesday?" He wasn't sure if the case was going to spill over into the next weekend. Best to leave the weekend free, just in case. Wednesday should be safe. Nothing important happened on Wednesdays. Okay, that was a lie, but he didn't think he'd be doing anything important next Wednesday except maybe creating their cover for the next convention. At least they had a reason for that one. It was a meeting of the National Spelling Bee Association. They'd solved a case involving Spelling Bees. It was close enough to warrant a fake invite.
"Sounds good, Shawn. Bring your friend."
The call hung up before Shawn could respond. He glared at the phone, for lack of the real person to glare out. Henry had put together the dots enough to figure out that he was dating. Shawn wasn't surprised. He'd all but explicitly stated that the last time they'd talked. Now Henry was calling him on it, a sort of 'man up or go on these blind dates' challenge. He sighed. Carlton was not going to like this.
"What am I not going to like?"
Shawn jumped, a flush stealing across his face as he lifted his head to face Carlton. He hadn't realized he'd spoken aloud, or that Carlton had walked over to him.
He waved his phone at Carlton. "Dinner. You, me, my dad. Next Wednesday."
Carlton's jaw tightened almost imperceptibly for a moment and then relaxed. "Alright."
Shawn stared. "Alright? Just alright? My dad asked me to bring you in a date capacity."
The detective's eyebrow rose. His eyes sparkled with humor. "Your dad asked you to bring me to dinner as your date?"
He could feel his face getting red. "Not you specifically. He found out that I'm dating someone and asked me to bring them. So, yes, you, he just doesn't know that it's you."
Carlton gave him a strange look. "Sometimes I wonder if even you know what you're talking about."
Juliet walked over to them, interrupting the moment as she waved two small paper folders. "I've got the room keys. I'm in 110, you boys are in 106."
"Didn't go for the adjoining suites?" Shawn asked curiously, a mischievous grin stretching across his face. "It'd be like one big slumber party. We could have a pillow fight and tell each other ghost stories."
The look Juliet gave him was usually reserved for dirty dishes and smelly men who hit on her. "No offense, but if I get woken up by someone's bed banging against the wall and loud noises in the middle of the night, I really don't want to know who's making them."
Shawn grinned and slid his arm around Lassiter's waist. "Then you should have put a couple more rooms between us because I'm loud. Really loud. Right, Lassy?"
Carlton just glared at him and stepped to the side. "I think that's my cue to go get the luggage."
Shawn and Juliet shared small victory smiles behind Lassiter's back as he marched away, grabbing the handle of his own and Shawn's luggage from where they'd left it near the elevators.
Shawn mock sighed and fluttered his eyes in Lassiter's direction. "Such a gentleman."
Juliet grinned at him. "I'm sure you're not the first lady who's said that about him."
He briefly considered taking insult and opted for humor instead. "I suppose that means I should start working on my sashay. Maybe get some pointers on snapping and witty double-entendre come-backs. Do you think they have a Gay Lifestyle for Dummies book? Training tapes?"
Juliet just giggled. "I'm sure you'll find something. You always do."
Lassiter gave them suspicious looks as they continued giggling as Juliet gathered her luggage and they boarded the elevator. "Do I want to know what you two find so funny?"
"Probably not, honey." Shawn patted his cheek affectionately, glanced at Juliet, and burst out laughing again.
He was back in that room, and he was not alone. Shawn shivered. He wanted a hot shower or, better yet, a hot tub, something boiling hot to put the warmth back into his bones. His t-shirt and jeans stuck to his skin. He'd been wearing them for days. The first thing he was going to do when he got out of here was burn them. The t-shirt had been one of his favorites. He wasn't going to miss it.
Behind him, fabric shifted. He could hear the stranger breathing. His breath was heavy, uneven. It was definitely a man, though that was all Shawn could tell at the moment. The man wasn't young, nor old, no distinguishing physical characteristics that Shawn could determine from the man's gait. He paced. He wandered away, came back hours or minutes later. He mumbled to himself, his voice high pitched and troubled. Anxiety issues. Nerves. Possible psychosis.
The man moved closer. The edge of the bed dipped behind him. Shawn whimpered and drew his legs up against his chest. A hand landed on his side. Cold fingers ran along hem of his shirt, back and forth three times before slipping under the fabric. He whimpered and curled further into himself. The man leaned in to whisper against Shawn's ear. Shawn squeezed his eyes shut and turned his face away.
"Tell me..." The man's voice was soft and raspy. He was on the verge of breathlessness. "What am I thinking?"
The hand on his side tightened painfully, pressing against existing bruises. Shawn whimpered again and reached out, touching his mind to the killer's.
He woke up screaming.
Warm arms wrapped around him, pulling him against an equally warm chest. Shawn clung to it, soaking up the heat of the other man's body.
"Shawn, are you alright?"
He shook his head while the word coalesced around him. Slowly, dark walls faded into the cream of the hotel's wallpaper and the thin mattress expanded into a plush bed with thick comforters. He slid over carefully, his muscles still tense from his nightmare, until he was seated in Carlton's lap.
"What the hell's going on? You're freezing."
Carlton pulled the blankets up around Shawn's shoulders before slipping his hands underneath to rub warmth back into his skin. Shawn let his head fall onto Carlton's shoulder and wrapped his arms around his lover. One of his hands pressed against Carlton's chest, just above the heart. The rhythm of Carlton's heartbeat was calming – steady, consistent, grounding. He listened, let the sounds of the room, the familiar closeness of Carlton's skin, anchor him in the present. It wasn't working as well as it usually did. He could still feel the stranger's touch. He needed something more.
Carlton's lips were soft and pliant under his. The kiss started light and deepened quickly. Shawn worked his way in until he was licking at the inside of Carlton's mouth. One of Carlton's hands slid up under Shawn's nightshirt. Phantom pain shot through Shawn's side and he pushed back quickly to stare at Lassiter.
He licked his lips once to wet them. "I think I met your murderer."
Carlton's muscles tensed beneath Shawn's hands. "When?"
Shawn forced himself to relax back against Carlton's chest. He listened to the beat of Carlton's heart for a moment before speaking again. "Just now, in my dream." Shawn hesitated, not sure if he should say any more. There was a possibility... no, Carlton needed to be warned, just in case. "He's going to pick me." Carlton's arms tightened reflexively around Shawn, making Shawn smile softly and the implicit emotion in the gesture. He toyed with the hem of Carlton's nightshirt. There were other things he needed to say but they stuck on his tongue. There'd be time to go over the details in the morning, when it didn't feel like they were still clinging to his skin.
He wanted something else to cling to, something to take the images away.
Slowly, Shawn pulled away and moved until he was kneeling over Carlton's lap. The detective watched him uncertainly, his expression guarded.
"C-can we...?" He ran his hands up Carlton's chest to convey his meaning.
The look Carlton gave him stripped Shawn to the bone. Shawn smiled hesitantly back. "Are you sure you want to...?"
Shawn nodded. "I... I need something solid. I don't know if I can get back to sleep without it." He closed his eyes to test it. There was heavy breathing in his ear, whispered commands that carried the threat of extreme violence. Shawn's entire body shuddered as his eyes flew open. His hands tightened on Carlton's shoulders. "Yeah," he said shakily. "Yeah. I need it."
Carlton stared at him for a long moment before nodding. "Okay."
A small sigh of relief escaped Shawn's lips. He blushed as Carlton smirked at him. Gentle hands helped him up onto his knees and pushed down his sweatpants. Carlton held him steady as he lifted one leg, then the other, and let Carlton slip the fabric off of him. Shawn stripped off his own shirt as Carlton opened the drawer in the small bed-side table and pulled out the lube Shawn had left there as they'd been unpacking earlier.
He collapsed against Carlton's chest as Carltonpushed two slick fingers inside of him. His fingers twisted in the hem of Carlton's shirt, but he couldn't bring himself to do anything with it. Carlton touched him softly, taking his time to slick Shawn up and then going further. He pushed a third finger inside, then a fourth, more than he really needed, but it wasn't just about preparation this time.
Shawn gasped softly and curled his head against Carlton's shoulder as Carltonspread his fingers, pushing lightly against Shawn's insides. The hand moved slowly, stroking him at a steady pace. Up, stretch, contract, pushing down as the fingers slid out. Shawn stopped thinking of anything beyond the fingers inside of him. He moaned into Lassiter's shoulder, his body shaking with need, but too caught up in the rhythm of it to try for anything more.
"Here." Carlton's voice was barely louder than a whisper. His free hand disentangled Shawn's hands, one by one, from Carlton's shirt and dropped them to the waistband of Carlton's pants. Carlton pushed his hips up, lifting both himself and Shawn off of the bed. Shawn obediently pushed the fabric down, moving by feel rather than sight. They settled back onto the bed. One of Shawn's hands was turned palm up. Something slightly cold and wet spilled across his palm.
Carlton guided Shawn's hand down to his erection. Together, they rubbed the lubrication into Carlton's skin. After a minute, Carlton pulled Shawn's hand away. His arm wrapped around Shawn's waist, pulling Shawn forward. The fingers inside of him spread out, stretching Shawn wide. He was pulled down.
A loud moan wrenched from Shawn's throat as Carlton pushed inside of him. He pulled his hand free, settling it and its partner on Shawn's hips. Shawn's hands moved up to Carlton's shoulders for balance as he leaned back slightly. He opened his eyes. There was an almost reverent look on Carlton's face as he watched Shawn. Heat spread across Shawn's face as he blushed. He loved it when Carlton got all intense on him.
Carlton's hands controlled their movement. They moved together slowly. His hips were pulled up, drawing Carlton halfway out of him before he was pushed down, sinking all the way until his ass hit Carlton's thighs, and then it was up again, repeating the action over and over again. It was calming, almost trancelike. Shawn felt his breathing synch up with Carlton's thrusts. Exhale as he sank down, inhale as he was pulled up.
He closed his eyes and felt the room fade away. His mind slipped into the space he usually hit when he was in one of his visions. For once, there was nothing waiting for him there, just pure, empty blankness. It felt like bliss.
Shawn sighed and let himself go. He sank down, exhaled, and came against Lassiter's chest.
It took him a minute to work up the energy to open his eyes. Carlton was staring at him like he was memorizing how Shawn looked. Shawn felt his face flush again and he shifted in Carlton's lap. Then he noticed something. Carlton wasn't hard inside of him anymore. He blinked. When had that happened? Shawn didn't remember Carlton coming, but the cooling stickiness between his legs told him that Carlton had come before him.
Carlton's fingers brushed lovingly over his cheek. "Have I told you how beautiful you are?"
Shawn's face was on flames. He dropped his head back to Carlton's shoulder. "Yeah, I think you've mentioned."
The hand moved from Shawn's face to rub up and down his spine. After a second, Shawn recognized it as the same slow rhythm Carlton had used when his hand was inside of him. He shivered.
"Feeling better now?"
Shawn nodded against Lassiter's shoulder in lieu of using words. He heard Carlton pull tissues from the box next to the bed, wiping off his hands, then Shawn's. More tissues were pulled out to wipe up the spent seed between them. Shawn felt a strange sense of loss as Carlton pulled out of him, but Carltonmade no move to push Shawn away.
No images flooded in on him when he closed his eyes again. "Can we sleep like this?" Shawn asked, the words punctuated by a loud yawn.
He heard Carlton laugh softly and then his cheek pressed against the top of Shawn's head. His head turned after a second, nuzzling against Shawn's hair before placing a kiss on the top of Shawn's head."Yeah. We can." Carlton slid down on the bed and Shawn moved with him, staying on top of the detective, their bodies pressed together. His head was pillowed on Carlton's chest, the detective's heartbeat a steady rhythm against his ear. He felt sleep surrounding him.
"I'm not going to let him get you." Carlton's arms wrapped tightly around him.
Shawn smiled and hoped Carlton was telling the truth.
He could feel his headache building the minute they stepped into the convention center. So many people crowded into such a small place. Customers, fakes, and out of all of them, maybe a handful of true talent. He felt the other true psychics as they moved around the convention center, glowing points of light amidst all the chaos around him, and knew they felt him to. It was hard to think that just months ago he'd been one of the fakes. It felt like he'd had these powers for an eternity, and it was only going to get worse as time went on. His powers were getting stronger all the time. He hoped he'd learn a bit more as he went, figure out how to control them. Maybe one of the psychics here would have some pointers.
"Would you like your fortune read?"
Shawn whipped around as a familiar voice caught his attention from amidst the cacophony of the crowded showroom.
"Shawn?" Lassiter paused a pace ahead of Shawn. Their goal for the day had been to blend in, examine the crowd, interview the psychics, and see who stood out and who pinged Shawn's radar. The real show wouldn't start until tomorrow. Today he was keeping a low profile, just another plebian in the crowd.
He pressed a hand to Carlton's back, lightly pushing him away towards one of the other stalls. "Go on without me. I need to talk to that lady." He nodded his head to the woman who sat two spaces down. She smiled at him from her chair, outside of a very familiar-looking tent.
Carlton frowned. "Is she a..."
He shook his head quickly, before Carltoncould even finish verbalizing the thought. He wanted to know if she was a possible suspect. "No. Definitely not. She's an..." It took him a minute to work through the jumble of all that she entailed and choose an appropriate term. "...old friend."
"Ah." A look of uncertainty crossed Lassiter's face. He was hesitant to leave Shawn alone in a crowd that possibly contained a serial killer. Apparently he deemed it not much of a risk. "I'll just..." He waved towards the rest of the aisle. "Find me when you're done."
Shawn smiled and dropped a kiss on Carlton's check, grinning as the detective blushed and stammered at him. Juliet was halfway down the aisle in front of them. She'd happened to glance back – part of the reason he'd chose that moment for a bit of P.D.A. – and now sent Shawn an approving look and a discreet thumbs up. Carlton pulled away and started to leave, but Shawn stopped him before he could get far.
Carlton paused, blatantly on guard. Shawn grinned back at him, feeling mostly like his old self for a brief moment.
"If they tell you that they can read your fortune, they're a fake. If they apologize for not being able to, they're real."
Words hung visibly on the tip of Carlton's lips, but he swallowed them back. Instead, his attention turned briefly to the crowd moving around and past them. A few of the convention-goers were looking at them suspiciously. Some of them looked at Shawn with interest. Carlton shut his mouth with a firm snap.
"Thanks." He turned without a backwards glanced and pressed through the crowd into another aisle.
Shawn approached the fortune teller's tent with a mix of foreboding and relief. She smiled at him as she held the tent flap aside, letting it fall as he passed, shutting the tent off from the outside world as effectively as a door would have. The interior was unchanged from the last time he'd been here, but there was a new layer to the room that he'd been completely oblivious to the first time. He was absolutely certain that the tent walls were as durable as wood. Nothing that was said here would make it out of the room, and no other patrons would try to bother them. To anyone else, it was a closed off shop, of no interest, and he knew the woman was purposely planting that impression.
"It's good to know I didn't dream this whole place up," Shawn said with a smile as he turned around to face the woman. "For a short while there, I thought I was going mad. You're remarkably hard to track down."
Her answering smile held a tinge of mischief and mystery. "For ones like us, dreams and reality often intermix. Dreams have a reality of their own, which should not be ignored, and reality is often as fragile as a dream. Sometimes, both are the same."
Shawn frowned. That made absolutely no sense, but he was hesitant to say so.
She waved a hand at one of the two chairs placed at opposite ends of the round table in the center of the room. He sat while she moved about the tent, gathering up two cups and a teapot that steamed slightly. There was no sign of a fire anywhere in the room, beyond the lamp that hung from the center of the ceiling and the small candles that flickered from random spots amongst the crate shelving, nothing large enough to heat a kettle. There was no sign of a warming plate or electrical outlets. She poured them each a cup, sliding a bowl of sugar across the table towards him with a small, knowing smile.
Shawn grinned uneasily back and dumped two spoonfuls into his cup.
The tea was an interesting mixture. Mint, sage, and some kind of berry. He sipped at it slowly. The water was still warmer than he usually liked his drinks.
"Who are you?" He asked after the silence had stretched on for too long between them.
She smiled and sipped at her tea. "Call me Vera. For you, I'm a friend, a teacher, and..." She hesitated momentarily, a thoughtful look crossing her face. "...perhaps, something of a mentor. You've done well with your gifts, Shawn. I'm very proud."
He felt a frown forming on his face and quickly hid it behind a polite mask. "I didn't have much choice in the matter." The words came out harsher than he'd intended.
She clucked her tongue at him and leaned back in her chair, taking a long sip of her tea before speaking again. Her bracelets shifted up and down her arms as she lifted then set down her teacup, the sound of metal sliding on metal reminding him vaguely of a waterfall. "It would have happened without my help. You were born with the gifts. Surely you'd noticed that your intuition was a bit stronger than most. Maybe you rationalized it away, assumed it was entirely mundane talent and the ingrained training from your father?" She arched her eyebrow at him. Shawn shifted in his chair. He'd forgotten just how disconcerting it was talking to her. "My interference merely set off your gifts at a time when you were well poised to receive them in a constructive manner."
Shawn stared in disbelief. "Nearly getting killed by the victim's murderous ex-boyfriend is constructive?"
"You would have found yourself in the same situation either way." She stared evenly back at him. "And I do believe that that was hardly your first such brush with danger. You have a propensity for leaping first and learning later, am I correct?"
"Point," Shawn conceded. He sipped at his tea again, taking the moment to gather his thoughts. She let him. He had the strong feeling that she was purposely letting him lead the conversation. It was the only point of control he had around her "So... how do I get the visions and the voices to stop?"
The look she gave him was a mixture of sadness and pity. "They won't stop, dear. With time, they'll get stronger." She held up a hand to forestall the complaints that were about to spring from his mouth. "There are ways to control them though. You've found one already with your beloved detective."
Shawn felt a blush steal across his face as he remembered the blankness that had come upon him when he'd been with Lassiter last night. He'd woken up without his usual headache, and his head had stayed clear for hours through the morning.
His and Lassiter's relationship was still new to him, even though they'd been dating and practically living together for a few months. But, it had been a quiet few months and only a handful of people openly knew that they were dating. He wasn't used to hearing other people – dead, meddling former policewomen aside – talk about it. Even Juliet kept her comments veiled most of the time.
'Beloved detective' had a nice ring to it.
She continued on with an amused tone. "Discipline also helps, though I know that's not something you're used to."
He groaned at the thought. It was tempting though, if it kept the constant stream of extraneous information at bay.
"The detective may be able to help you with that. He's quite a disciplined man, is he not?"
Shawn felt his face flush. His mind had an altogether different idea of the kind of discipline he wanted Lassiter to give him. He fidgeted in his seat and felt a bit like a naughty schoolboy as Vera shot him an amused look. That was another fantasy he'd have to add to the list. He wondered if Carlton had gone to public school. Maybe they could find one of those really long rulers somewhere and...
Vera's words cut through Shawn's thought. He had a feeling she was doing that on purpose. "Also, there are certain implements..." His mind went to a very wrong place and then jumped back out quickly. "...tools of the trade, which will aide you."
She stood then and lifted a plain-looking wooden box from one of the open shelves before returning and placing the box in front of him. He opened the lid cautiously. Inside was an assortment of strange items, most of which he'd seen on many of the display tables outside in one form or another. There was a crystal ball, several raw cut gems, a pointed gem on a chain, a few tied pouches, and three boxes of cards. At least one of the decks was a set of tarot cards.
He shut the box with a snap and glared at her. "Seriously?"
She smiled placidly back at him. "Some you may find helpful, some not as much, depending on the situation. I recommend you try them all and see what works."
He turned his gaze back to the box in front of him and sighed. "Fine. I don't suppose this big box 'o fun comes with an instruction manual?"
"You won't need one. Just follow your instincts."
"Because that's been working out so well for me so far," he muttered as he stood. He'd had enough of cryptic fortune-tellers for the time being. It was time to get out of here and go find his lover. The box was tucked awkwardly under his arm as he stepped towards the door. He needed to leave before things got any weirder.
His free arm was caught in a tight grip before he could take a single step, fingernails pressing into his skin. He stared down at her arm in surprise and then looked up into her face. He didn't like what he saw.
"You're in grave danger here." The fortune-teller's eyes shot straight through him.
Shawn shivered and carefully extricated his arm. He swallowed roughly.
She let him leave without another word. He glanced back as he heard the tent flap fall back into place, only to find the tent gone, replaced by an empty table.
"I was wrong about things getting weirder..." He muttered to himself and headed towards the exit. He wanted to drop the box off in their room before rejoining Carlton. Awkwardly, he dug his phone out of his pocket with his off-hand and flipped it open to call Lassiter. The detective would freak if he thought Shawn was missing. He'd probably insist on accompanying Shawn back. A smile stretched across Shawn's lips. That could work out well too. He wouldn't mind another quick romp through the sheets.
He stepped into one of the alcoves, away from the noise of the main show room. A row of fake plants formed a thin screen between him and the rest of the hall. He opened up his contact list and scrolled down to Lassiter's name.
A hand on his sleeve stopped him before he could make the call. Shawn looked down at the short man holding onto his arm. He had dark hair and a rounded face, set with two beady eyes and a nose that looked too large for his face. He was short, barely over five foot and obviously had an issue with it judging by the way he was dressed – stripes to make him seem taller, extra heel in his shoe. His grip was firm, stronger than Shawn would have expected from such an unassuming little man.
"You're that famous psychic, aren't you?" The man asked. "The one who works for the police department?"
There was a nasal quality to the man's voice but it also sounded a bit familiar. He was positive he'd met this man before but he couldn't remember his face. The lack of memory was disconcerting. He remembered everything he saw, so why not this man? Maybe he was one of the clients Shawn had dealt with over the phone, or worse, one of the ones he'd had to cancel when he'd put his Psych work on hold this past week?
He nodded warily. "I am. Shawn Spenser, psychic extraordinaire." He tugged on his arm, hoping the little man would get the hint and let go.
The man grinned, the look seeming sickly and off. He didn't let go. "Tell me, what am I thinking?"
Shawn decided to humor the man. He concentrated and pressed his arm against the man's hand, letting the man's fingers press against his skin instead of just the fabric of his shirt.
The images that assaulted made his stomach rise in revolt. He dropped hard to his knees, gagging, suddenly glad that he hadn't eaten for a few hours. There was so much violence wrapped around that man, so much blood and death. Shawn had no doubt in his mind that he'd just been approached by their murder suspect and he was defenseless to do anything about it until the images in his head cleared away. They wouldn't stop. He tried closing his eyes but that just made them worse.
So cold. So cold. Someone, save him. He didn't want to be near this man.
Where was Carlton when he needed him?
The man pulled a small vial from his pocket, uncapped it, and ran the vial under Shawn's nose. He body refused to move. Shawn was barely conscious of the smell of the gas. He had no choice but to breathe in the vapors from whatever liquid was held in the vial. His eyes closed of their own volition and he felt himself falling into a slump against the other man. He heard a faint clatter as his fingers went lax, letting his phone fall from his hand.
Strong arms lifted him as he passed out.
Carlton stalked through the thinning crowds of the convention hall, making a complete, swift circuit of the room before coming back to a halt beside his partner. Most of the stalls were packing up or already empty.
"Where the hell is Spencer?" He mused aloud, his voice slipping automatically into his usual authoritative growl.
"I haven't seen him since we first split up," Juliet said. "I thought he was with you."
"He was, until he went to talk to the fortune-teller in the tent." He'd already walked past there three times in the last hour. No Spencer, and no tent either, which worried him. "I told him to find me after he was done talking to her, though she seems to have disappeared as well."
"Maybe he went back to the room?" Juliet offered hopefully. Her eyebrows were knitted together with worry, her expression at odds with her calm tone. No doubt his face held a similar concern, though it was mixed with pure rage.
"Without telling us? Shawn-" He cut himself off. That was entirely something Spencer would do. The old Spencer. He'd hoped – assumed – that with his new psychic powers, Shawn would have grown up a little, developed a sense of responsibility. For a while, he'd even believed that was true.
Carlton turned and marched towards the exit, intent on heading back to the hotel and giving Spencer a piece of his mind. He should know better than to go off alone when there was a psycho-killer on the loose who was likely going to target him, and Carlton intended to drill that lesson into his head, possibly even drill it into his ass. Maybe a spanking would get his point across, though Carlton had a feeling that Shawn might like that kind of punishment.
It was partially Carlton's fault as well, he admitted to himself. He shouldn't have let Shawn go off to talk to the fortune-teller alone. He should have followed him inside, or at least have waited beside the tent. What if the fortune-teller was the killer? No, Shawn had said it was a man. An accomplice, maybe?
"O'Hara," Carlton barked, startling a surprised squeak out of the other detective, "go get me a list of every vendor in this place. Shawn was talking to one of them. Might be a lead."
He dug his cellphone out of his pocket as he walked and pressed the speed dial for Spencer's number. The phone started to ring.
From out of the plants that lined the hall walls, Carlton heard the distinct tones of Bonnie Tyler's 'Holding Out For a Hero'. He paused and canceled the call. The plants didn't move, and they were too thin of a cover to hide a person behind. He pressed the speed dial again. Bonnie Tyler started singing again. Carlton let the phone ring as he stalked over to the plants, moving the branches quickly aside to find Shawn's iPhone hidden near the base of one of the plants. It was placed too carefully to have been dropped accidentally. He pulled a receipt out of his pocket, uncrinkled the paper, and used it to pick up the phone as carefully as possible. Maybe they'd get lucky and find fingerprints on it.
He had a feeling they weren't going to be lucky.
The warehouse was definitely more foreboding in person than it had been in Shawn's dreams. At least, that's what Shawn assumed this room was part of. The walls and windows had a distinct industrial feel to them, and he thought he caught the faint sight of I-beams overhead, hidden among the shadows that swamped the ceiling. He'd woken up alone and hoped it stayed that way. Like in his dreams and visions, he was handcuffed to a rickety metal bed in the center of the room. The mattress was thin, obviously old and worn. The springs of the bed frame poked through in parts, jabbing him painfully as he rolled to get a look at as much of the room as possible. There were stains on the mattress that he didn't want to examine too closely right now.
His jean pockets had been emptied, which negated the option of trying to call for help. Shouting would be useless. He doubted his voice would make it past the warehouse walls – probably why the killer had chosen this location in the first place. Other than the bed, there was a metal table set not far off with an accompanying metal chair. There was a set of permanent restraints attached to the legs and back of the chair. He couldn't see over the top of the table, but he could see the plain wooden box Vera had given him perching on the edge. There was also a rusty looking bucket not too far away and a chain that draped off of the head of the bed. He guessed that was where he was supposed to do his business, if he was ever allowed the freedom of movement enough to do so.
Out of the corner of his eyes he could see things moving, humanoid shapes that were too blurry and dark to be really there. He knew they weren't real but he could hear them just the same. There was a faint stream of voices running constantly through the room, like a radio station, somewhat staticy and tuned real low. It faded occasionally, wavering in and out like it was losing signal. One pair of words stuck out, repeated the most often, over and over again.
Tell me. Tell me.
The voices got stronger every time the handcuffs bit into his wrists or a piece of bare skin pressed against the mattress. He saw a man in the chair. He was bleeding, screaming silently, and then he was gone.
Shawn focused his eyes on one of the beams high overhead and started counting his breaths. That was supposed to be a good meditation technique. He'd learned it when he'd taken a few yoga classes. It didn't really work very well, but he kept at it, trying very hard to concentrate on the real world and keep the images tied to the bed and the handcuffs from taking over his mind.
All he could do now was wait and hope to be rescued.
Carlton paced the length of the conference room. They'd returned to the station after Shawn had failed to turn up at either the convention center or the hotel. He hadn't made it back to the hotel and no one had seen him leave the convention center. The fortune-teller Carlton had seen Shawn talking to yesterday didn't exist according to the convention staff, and even the people who'd had booths on either side of her couldn't remember a tent ever being there. According to them, the table had remained unoccupied until one of the neighbors had co-opted it halfway through the second day for tarot readings. No one had come to claim it. No prints besides Shawn's on the phone either, which left them with absolutely nothing to go on.
The lack of clues was infuriating Carlton, and the rest of the station had quickly picked up on that and stayed out of his way. Even Henry Spencer was keeping back – and Lassiter was going to kill whoever thought it was a good idea to let the man know that his son was missing - though he still hovered in the bullpen, jumping on any opportunity to help. He wasn't sure if Mr. Spencer had any idea of the kind of connection Carlton and Shawn shared, but he didn't think that now was an appropriate time to bring it up.
He hated not knowing where Shawn was. When they got Shawn back, Carlton was going to install a GPS tracker in his ass.
He had a feeling that Shawn was in pain right now. He could practically feel what Shawn was probably going through. His body ached faintly, though he knew that was just his mind playing tricks on him. His body hurt because he'd fallen asleep at his desk last night and slept at an odd angle.
His eyes drifted to the photos of the victims after they'd been found. They'd been beaten, each and every one. Some worse than others, but none of them had died without going through a lot of pain.
They had no leads. Nothing. It was driving him mad.
"What do we know?" Carlton knew he sounded tired, defeated, but couldn't bring himself to care. Juliet gave him a sympathetic look, started to reach out towards him and then rightly thought better of it. Carlton didn't want sympathy. He wanted results.
"Shawn said that the victims..." Juliet winced as she spoke. She likely wasn't accustomed to speaking about friends as victims. Lassiter didn't have much experience with it either, but he had enough to know that it never got any easier. She visibly steeled herself and continued. "...were being kept in a building that was likely abandoned. So, we can start with a list of known abandoned buildings and check them off versus the criteria of the room he described to you – at least two stories, no windows on the first floor, in slight disrepair, not otherwise inhabited."
Carlton nodded along with her.
"Unfortunately we don't have enough about the suspect to go on. Middle-aged male isn't a good restriction on suspects, but we can go through the convention center employees and start looking at all the men. If that gives us nothing, we can start going through the cameras and look for anyone who shows up at more than one convention."
"That kind of search will take days," Carlton grumbled. He didn't want to leave Shawn with the killer for any longer than necessary.
"It'll take time," she agreed, "but one thing we know from previous cases is that we have time. It took weeks, months in some cases, before the victims were killed. We'll find Shawn before then."
"I'm more concerned about what that bastard's going to do to him before we find him."
Juliet swallowed around the sudden lump in her throat and left Carlton alone in the conference room. The sooner they figured out where Shawn was, the better.
"Tell me, how does it work?"
Shawn stared between the man and the uncut purple crystal in his hand. "I have no clue. I just got that stuff. I haven't had a chance to use any of it."
The backhand that hit Shawn across the face was becoming entirely too familiar. He spit blood onto the cement floor and turned tired eyes on to his captor.
"Smacking me around isn't going to make things magically start to work."
He really should have expected the smack that followed his words. He was starting to wonder if there was anything he could say that wouldn't end with pain.
"Tell me how you do it." The short man's voice was growing louder in his fury. "Tell me how you do it."
"It's a gift," Shawn repeated for what felt like the twentieth time. They'd been going over the same thing for days. "I can't teach you. I can't magically make you psychic. I know someone who can, but she doesn't exist most of the time and I don't think she'd be willing to help you."
Shawn's world was shoved violently upside-down as the chair he was currently cuffed to was kicked over. He screamed as his hands were crushed between the floor and the bars of the chair, hoping that nothing had been broken. The crystal slammed into the ground not far from his head, cracking but thankfully not breaking. He heard heavy footfalls receding and then the sound of a metal door slamming.
As soon as the door shut, Shawn swung his legs over to tip the chair on its side. Now, his weight rested on his shoulder, but at least it wasn't as bad as being on his back.
He didn't think he was going to last as long as the other kidnapped conventioneers.
Carlton looked up, startled, as a paper cup appeared in his field of vision. He hadn't heard Henry approach. Had he fallen asleep? Carlton stared down at the profiles on his desk. He didn't have time for sleep.
"Thanks," he said after a moment, belatedly realizing that Henry wanted him to take the cup. He sipped at it. This wasn't their usual station coffee. He felt the caffeine work its way through his system but it did little to alleviate his fatigue.
Henry dropped into the chair opposite Lassiter, a similar cup in his hand. Had he gone out for coffee? Why had he brought Lassiter some, and how did he even know how Lassiter took his coffee?
"You look like shit," Henry said without preamble.
Carlton didn't have the energy to take offense to that. "I feel like shit," he said instead, and leaned back in his chair. He scrubbed a hand over his face, feeling stubble. Maybe he should go home and shower. He could use a shave, probably needed a change of clothes too. When had he gotten so attached to Spencer that a few days without him made his life go to hell?
"How long have you two been dating?"
His hand smacked onto the edge of the desk as he barely stopped himself from falling over. As it was, he'd spilled hot coffee on his tie. He set the cup firmly on the table and glanced down at the fabric. He definitely needed a change of clothing.
Henry needed an answer.
Carlton glanced over at the man. "What?" He asked intelligently.
The look Henry shot him was both pitying and stern. "You and Shawn. How long?"
Carlton swallowed and tried very hard not to panic. There was no way in hell he'd get away with lying to Henry Spencer, not in the state he was in. Deflection was also a non-option.
"Three months, give or take." The words just slipped out of his mouth. After he rescued Shawn, and Shawn found out that he'd told Henry, Shawn was going to murder him. He could live with that, if it meant that they were going to find Shawn, alive and whole.
Henry quirked an eyebrow. "Really? You and Shawn?"
"How'd that happen?"
Lassiter tried his hardest not to blush. He had a feeling he hadn't fully succeeded. "Case. The one with the ex-boyfriend that stole the dead girl's bird. Cockatiel. Whatever it was. We got together during that."
Henry nodded. "The last time Shawn almost died." He said it so calmly. Carlton didn't think he'd ever be calm about Shawn nearly getting killed. Angry, concerned, worried, anxious... all of those, but never calm.
"Yeah." Lassiter stared at his coffee. He pushed it away. He didn't think his stomach could take anything right now, not with all the talk of death hanging in the air.
"And that's what made you change your mind about Shawn really being a psychic?"
Lassiter looked over and debated his options. What was the saying? In for a penny, in for a pound? If Shawn was going to kill him, might as well make it worth it.
"No," he answered. "Though that is part of the reason why we got together. He told me everything – about how he was pretending to be a psychic, and how he'd figured out all the clues that we'd missed. He even showed me how he did it. But he's not a fake. Shawn's really psychic."
Henry looked at Carlton like he'd lost his mind. "Shawn's not psychic. I would have noticed."
"He wasn't psychic," Lassiter corrected. "Not until the cockatiel case. He is now. He said it had something to do with a fortune teller he met at an amusement park. We ran into her again at the psychic convention last weekend."
"What?" Henry shifted nervously in his seat. "That old fraud? I told Shawn not to buy into that stuff."
"He's not faking," Lassiter protested. "Your son really is a psychic. Ask Detective O'Hara or Gus or Vick. They've seen the proof of it too. One minute he was being his usual annoying self, then boom, he passes out and starts pulling information from thin air. He gave us the exact route that the killer in the cockatiel case took on his way into the city."
Henry still seemed skeptical. This was why Shawn had been hesitant to talk to the man. He really couldn't believe that there was anything extraordinary about his son. "You're sure?"
Lassiter nodded. "I would stake my career on it. He's been our biggest asset since we hired him on full-time." He saw Henry's mouth open and had a feeling he knew what the man was going to say. "Not solving cases, but pointing us towards the evidence we need so that due process can go into effect. Really, you should be proud of him. The department's been climbing steadily towards a near-perfect solve rate."
"Huh." Henry leaned back in his chair, finally looking like he was starting to accept the truth.
Minutes passed in silence. Lassiter attempted to drink his coffee again. His stomach didn't immediately revolt. He took that as a good sign.
Henry leaned forward in his chair. "Well, I'm assuming that means you'll be coming to dinner with Shawn once he's back?"
Lassiter froze, not quite trusting Henry's tone of voice. He nodded. "That had been the plan."
"In that case, there's a few things we need to talk about, now that you're dating my son..."
Carlton resisted the urge to groan. Shawn was definitely going to owe him for this.
Shawn gasped for air and struggled against the handcuffs holding him to the bed. The man, his captor, Lex, Lexington – he had his hand around Shawn's throat. He could feel blood on his wrists. His wrists were bleeding, faintly, not too bad, from where the metal of the handcuffs had dug in too hard. That was the lesser of his concerns right now. Lexington's fingers tensed against his throat, prepared to squeeze again.
Lexington was going to kill him. Shawn was going to die unless he coughed something up. He was probably going to die either way. The fingers tightened, pressing into his skin and making Shawn's ears ring. The voices screamed at him. They yelled, each one of them trying to make their voices heard. Some of them tried to warn Shawn. Some of them pleaded, the ones with unfinished business, with families they'd left behind. Some of them raged at him, demanding to know why he hadn't been there for them, why he hadn't been psychic enough to know what was going on and save them. The last group were the ones that screamed the loudest, making his head split with pain.
He was the one that needed saved. They were already dead.
There was a good chance he would be joining them soon.
Lexington let go.
Shawn sucked in a deep lungful of air. His throat hurt. He couldn't take much more of this. Tears rolled down his face. He wanted to go home. He wanted Carlton.
"Alright!" Shawn screamed. "Stop. Please. I'll tell you."
Lexington paused, wavering. His fingers drummed against Shawn's skin as he debated. Shawn needed to make this convincing.
"I'm not supposed to tell you," he sobbed. "They didn't want you to know our secrets. God, I'm going to get in so much trouble over this."
For a second, he thought he was overdoing it but Lexington's hand eased against his throat. The man actually believed him. Paranoid little fuck.
"It's not a gift," he wheezed out. His throat hurt. Talking hurt. Everything hurt, and he just wanted to get Lexington off of him. "It's not a gift. You can learn it. You just have to be taught by someone who already knows, and you have to believe you can do it. They don't want us to teach without new applicants being approved."
Lexington looked at him warily. His fingers tightened again. "You're lying to me, aren't you?"
Tears of frustration and panic rolled down Shawn's face. He was shaking, but couldn't make himself stop. He rolled his head from side to side. "No," he moaned. "Not lying."
The man moved off of him and pulled over the metal chair. Shawn whimpered as it scratched against the floor. He hated that chair. He really, really hated the chair and the things Lexington did to him while he was in it.
"Tell me," Lexington crooned in his ear, petting Shawn's hair gently. That only made Shawn's shaking worse. This guy was certifiable. How had the convention center missed a nut like him? "Tell me how to do it."
Shawn licked his lips and focused his gaze on Lexington. It was hard to think with so many people yelling at him.
"A-alright. Being psychic... being a psychic is about observation. You look around you, take in everything. Most people... most people don't notice, and they miss the details. You put those together, and point out what they missed. Go with the most obvious. They always miss the obvious."
Shawn kept talking, filling in every detail he could think of until he ran out and then he started making things up. He talked until his voice was hoarse. He talked until his voice came as barely a whisper and Lexington had to lean in close, his breath washing over Shawn's face. He talked until his voice gave out and Lexington snapped, screaming that Shawn was keeping the final secrets from him.
A fist connected with Shawn's face and the world went black.
Carlton felt like he hadn't slept for days. That was, in fact, mostly true. Ever since Shawn had been kidnapped, he'd lived at the station, taking over the couch in the conference room when Vick ordered him to get some sleep because he couldn't stand being away from the action. On the rare chances he did get away, he found that he couldn't sleep, couldn't even sit still, and ended up back at the station, pouring over lists of buildings or employee records. He kept hoping for some sort of lead, that a miracle would happen that would point them to Shawn's location.
Fuck, he was half tempted to walk outside, point in a random direction, and go. It'd probably be just as productive as what they'd been doing.
Two weeks had passed. Two weeks of constantly worrying whether they'd be too late to find Shawn. Two weeks of wondering what happened to the victims while they were in the murderer's care. They'd seen the aftermath, knew some of it was pure physical abuse but there were other marks that weren't as easily explained. He remembered how scared Shawn had been when Carlton had woken him from his nightmare. He didn't want to see that look of terror on Shawn's face again.
They'd searched all twenty of their initial list of possible locations near the convention center, and were now in the process of branching out into the surrounding neighborhoods. There were more lists of places to check waiting as they worked their way further out. Juliet was handling interviewing the convention staff, and between all the officers working on it they were still only half-way through. Apparently the place had some fairly high turn-around and were lax in revoking access, which meant that they needed to check not only the current employees, but also past ones as well.
The sound of angry shouting filtered through the sleep-deprived haze of Carlton's mind and he shot off of the couch. He paused at the doorway to take in the scene in the bullpen. Juliet was marching ahead of two other officers. They were half-dragging a screaming man between them. The man was short, obviously enraged, and screaming obscenities and threats in a high, shrill voice. Slowly, the man's words percolated through Carlton's brain.
"...find him. He's dead! Dead! I'm the psychic now. Me! Me!"
Red filled Carlton's vision. He pushed away from the doorframe and crossed the room in four steps. Grabbing the tiny man by the throat, he ripped him from the two officer's grasp and slammed the short man against the wall.
"Where is he?" Lassiter shouted, matching the little man rage for rage.
The man's shouts cut off abruptly, though that likely had a lot to do with Carlton's fingers tightening around his throat. His grip wasn't enough to constrict the man's airflow, but enough to get his point across. Blue eyes focused on him, lucid for a brief moment before glinting strangely and filling with mirth.
"Do you miss him? Let me guess... you two were close?" The man asked, tilting his head to the side as much as he could with Lassiter's hands around his throat. "Tell me, how does it feel knowing that he's dead?"
Lassiter had a brief moment of pleasure as he squeezed his fingers into the man's neck. He had the brief satisfaction of watching the man's eyes widen in surprise as he started to choke, before McNabb and another officer pulled him off the man.
"Detective!" Vick snapped.
Carlton spared her a brief glance before lunging back towards the strange little men. The officers held him back.
"Tell me where he is!"
The man grinned at him and started laughing. He didn't stop laughing, even as a pair of officers dragged him away to one of the interrogation rooms.
Lassiter watched him go with a sinking feeling in his stomach. Juliet was at his side, waving the officers restraining him off.
"Tell me we have something on this guy, anything."
"Lexington James. Grade-A wacko," Juliet answered, her voice lacking the type of humor that would have normally accompanied such a statement. "He's a janitor at the convention center. The center staff said that he's known to hang around on his days off, whenever there's a convention in town. There're a few others that do that, but Mr. James is the most frequent visitor. The staff allows it. It's the only perk to the job, and they said that he would pick up whenever he was there, making things easier on the day staff."
"So he had constant access."
"There's no doubt that he did it. He's got belongings from every one of the victims in his apartment." Juliet shivered suddenly. "You should have seen the place, it was weird. Major creep factor. There were baskets all over the place, surgical manuals, fake teeth. It's like he develops a fascination with whatever his victims were in to."
"I want to know every last place that freak's ever sneezed. Let's go, people."
Juliet and the other officers nearby scrambled. Lassiter stalked over to his desk and turned on his monitor to begin his own search. The man's – James's – file appeared on his screen. He scrolled through, looking for an opening, something to get him inside this guy's head. It didn't take long to find. Not only was the guy a 'wacko', he was also a screw-up. His job history read like Shawn's, only without the genius-grade intelligence and glowing recommendations behind it.
Lassiter moved through the halls with a sudden sense of purpose. James was waiting in the second interrogation room, screaming into the one-way glass. There was an officer on the other side, taking down anything remotely pertinent he might say. He had nothing that would help them find Shawn when Lassiter checked in on him, but plenty that could count for an admission of guilt.
Lexington James fell momentarily silent when Carlton walked into the room. They watched each other silently as Carlton closed the door behind him and crossed to the single table in the center of the room. He sat, folded his hands, and waited. His silence had the desired effect of unnerving the short man. Carlton waited a few more moments before asking his question in a carefully calm voice.
James grinned and slid into the chair across from Lassiter. "He's gone now. You need a new psychic." He leaned forward, his eyes slightly glazed, voice ecstatic. "I can do it. He told me. He told me everything, so now I can do it too. I can be your psychic. I'm the only one that can do it. I'm the only one he passed his secrets to. Only me."
Shawn's earlier words rang in Carlton's ears. He forced himself to smile. "Then let's conduct your entrance interview. Right here, right now." James stared at him suspiciously. Obviously, he'd expected to have to fight for a place with the department. Carlton grinned. He was going to savor this moment. "One question. What am I thinking?"
The man paled visibly. He opened his mouth, but it took minutes before any words emerged. "I... um... you... you're thinking..." His eyes roved over Lassiter, looking for any visible clue. Carlton had enough experience with Shawn, and enough coaching from Shawn more recently, to know that he knew he gave nothing back. Finally, the man settled back in his chair and grinned at Carlton, though there was a nervous, uneasy edge to it. "You're wondering how I did it, how I kidnapped your psychic without anyone catching me, and how I got all those other people."
Lassiter leaned forward. He was going to savor this moment, almost as much as when he finally broke this guy and rescued Shawn.
"You're wrong." The look of shock that crossed James's face was precious. Lassiter's grin widened. "You failed. You got it wrong." He leaned back in his chair, portraying an ease that he didn't feel. "But I guess you're used to that. I saw your employment record. Lots of failure, going all the way back to your very first job. How spectacularly did you tank your father's business after his death?"
James blanched in anger. He started screaming again, raging at Lassiter. He tried to lunge at Carlton but his hands were cuffed to the chair. The man's words fell around Carlton like hail. He ignored him. Something niggled in the back of his mind, like he'd forgotten something important. Likely it was one of those things that Shawn would have picked up in seconds and used to solve the case, without needing to use his psychic talents.
He flipped open the manila folder he'd brought into the room with him. He had a print-out of James's entire work history in front of him. His father had run a rather prosperous shipping company. Then the father had died and the son had inherited, only to run the business into the ground. James still owned the property. Shipping companies had warehouses. Defunct shipping companies had abandoned warehouses.
Lassiter stood abruptly, startling the man into falling back into his chair. "It's over. I've won."
He walked out without a backwards glance. This time, Lexington James's furious shouts were music to his ears.
Shawn whined piteously, slightly annoyed that there was no one around to hear him and thus come help him. He had to pee. He'd had to pee for hours and for once, his captor was off his game. There was a pattern to the man's comings and goings, which Shawn assumed focused around his work at the convention center and sleep. The only way he could really tell time was by the shades of light that hit the windows high overhead. They'd passed the shade that normally meant his captor would be coming in with breakfast and were rapidly approaching lunch shade.
Images tugged at his brain, waiting for him to give in. He could hear the screams of the last victim as she'd been killed. Her throat had been cut. He felt it, wanted to reach up and touch his throat to make sure it wasn't real but his hands were cuffed above him. His fingers felt stiff. They likely wouldn't have been much use, even if he hadn't been cuffed.
How long had he been here? How long had Carlton been looking for him? In the strange timeless room, it seemed like an eternity. He was so cold, but he'd expected that. His fingers were constantly numb and the springs that had been an annoyance to lay on when he'd first come here were like fiery spots of pure agony when they pressed into heavily bruised skin. He hurt. He was starving and cold and had to pee. His defenses were weak, making it hard to keep the visions at bay. They were there, waiting for him to lose focus for just a second. Even when he didn't lose focus, they were still there, like a dark halo around his vision.
He wondered if that meant he was going to die.
A shadow passed across one of the windows. Likely, just a cloud, but in it he saw a helicopter, a man seated in the pilot's cockpit grinning down at his little girl. His daughter, who grew up thinking her daddy was the greatest hero in the world. Only her daddy didn't come back. He was dead, and she needed him so much right now. She needed him to come save her before the crazy man slit her throat.
He hadn't saved her. No one could now, but maybe she would finally get to see her father again as soon as this case was closed.
His captor was late, which hopefully meant that he'd been caught and thus the Santa Barbara Police Department would be here in no time to rescue him. Assuming of course, they knew where here was. He'd filled the short man's head full of nonsense on how to act like a psychic, almost had him to the point where he thought that he could get good enough to fool the police. If there was anything Shawn was good at, it was making up nonsense. He had enough fake psychic instruction stored in his head to go for months.
He wasn't going to last months. His control was slipping, badly. His captor already thought he was a little off the rocker, and it was only going to get worse. He was starting to channel the past victims. The last time... Shawn was pretty sure he'd scared the short man the last time he'd been in here. The voices had been so insistent. They'd taken over. Said things. Pushed too far. Shawn had hurt for hours afterwards. Still hurt.
The door to the warehouse banged open, carrying with it far too many footsteps to be his captor returning.
"In here!" Shawn screamed, slightly disheartened at how weak his voice sounded. He'd talked himself nearly hoarse over the last few days, after he'd faked breaking, suddenly willing to give over all his trade secrets.
That was Juliet's voice, and where Juliet was, there was Lassiter. His detective. He'd make the voices go away.
"Here!" He shouted again.
He heard the inner door opening. There were running footsteps. He hurt too much to move.
The voices were inside his head again, demanding to know what he'd done to deserve saving. What did he have that they hadn't? Why did he deserve to live?
"Shawn, I've got you." Lassiter's face suddenly filled Shawn's field of vision. One of his hands brushed softly against Shawn's cheek, careful of the bruising there.
The hand started to move.
"Stay," Shawn cried quietly. "Don't stop touching me. Please. It hurts. The voices hurt and I can't make them go away any more."
Carlton's eyes stared at him in concern. His hand settled firmly against Shawn's cheek. "I'm here."
Shawn saw Carlton's other hand move. He passed something small and metallic – keys, his mind interpreted a second later, keys to the handcuffs – off to a smaller set of hands. The metal slipped from around his wrists but he could still feel it pressing against him. He moaned in pain as his arms were lowered back to the bed.
"Are you hurt, Shawn? Are you okay to move?"
Slowly, Shawn forced one of his arms to move. He pulled his arm down and wrapped his fingers around Lassiter's.
"Hurt. Can't stay here. Home."
Carlton seemed to understand. Strong arms wrapped around him, lifting him off of the hated mattress. Carlton's chest was warm. Shawn draped one of his arms around Lassiter's neck and curled against his heat. This was probably the only chance he'd get to cuddle with Carlton in public. Carlton could forgive him a little P.D.A. under the circumstances. They started to move but a niggling thought forced its way through Shawn's brain, reminding him that he was forgetting something very important.
He pointed without looking, knowing that his aim was perfect. "Box. Mine. Please."
"I've got it," Juliet announced from somewhere over Carlton's shoulder.
His one concern taken care of, Shawn promptly passed out.
Shawn moved woodenly around the room, dropping his phone and wallet – returned to him earlier by Carlton – on the small table next to his half of the bed. He was slowly getting ready for sleep, though the process was far more labor intensive than he remember it being. He was looking forward to sleeping in a real bed again, one without pointy springs and a mattress that whispered to his mind about murder.
"I still think you should be in the hospital," Carlton grumbled from the other side of the bed. Shawn knew the detective was watching him, but he didn't quite have the energy to put on more of a show for him. As it was, his t-shirt was proving remarkably hard to get off. The fact that he could barely lift his arms halfway over his head may have been a strong contributing factor in that.
"I was in the hospital, less than an hour ago," Shawn pointed out. "They let me go."
"Because you forced them to while I was on the phone. With your father, by the way. He wants to see you. And, you should still be in the hospital."
Shawn bit back his initial retort. There was no way he was spending the night in a hospital in his current condition. He'd go mad. Too many ghosts, too much dying. He was hyper-sensitized right now, and picking up everything around him, even when Carlton was around. It was giving him a massive headache.
"I'll sleep better here. I'll call my dad in the morning and we can reschedule that dinner we were supposed to have, maybe swing by his place tomorrow night, then you and he can both worry together about how I'm not taking care of myself. And, by the way, don't think I've forgiven you yet for telling him about the whole 'gay and psychic' thing. I'm totally going to yell at you for that, once the rest of my body isn't quite so intent on getting me into a prone position as fast as possible."
Carlton gave Shawn a stern look. "If you feel that bad, then you really should be in the hospital."
"Not unless you plan on crawling in bed with me there." The blush that spread across Lassiter's face told him that he'd won that battle. "There's too many dead people there, too many voices. I've had enough of sleeping in beds that people have died in for one lifetime." Shawn turned his best piteous look at Lassiter. From the way Carlton was trying not to laugh, its effect was ruined by his continuing efforts to get his shirt up past his bellybutton. "I just want to be with you tonight," he finished, going for the emotional kill.
Carlton sighed. "Fine." He shook his head as he watched Shawn struggle with his shirt. "Here, let me."
Shawn grinned triumphantly. He could stay, and he'd gotten his shirt off. Two victories in one. With the shirt gone, Carlton dropped his hands to Shawn's pants. The fabric was pushed down, dropping to the floor along with Shawn's underwear. His original clothes were gone, either taken as evidence or disposed of, and Shawn was fine with that. The hospital had given him a pair of scrubs, though sadly, Carlton had not been in the mood for all of Shawn's jokes about playing doctor.
Lassiter pushed him back on the bed so that he could kneel to take off Shawn's socks. Shawn was naked. Carlton was not. Truly, there was no justice in the world.
Shawn sighed softly. It was hard enough right now to keep himself upright on his own. He was exhausted. As much as he wanted sex, sleep was going to come first, whether he liked it or not.
"What's in the box, Shawn?"
Shawn glanced over from towards the aforementioned box. It sat on the floor near the closet, for lack of a better place at the moment. He shivered as he remembered Lexington forcing him to go through each item. It would be a while before he was up to dealing with the contents again.
Lassiter's hand ran up his thigh in an offer of comfort. Shawn smiled back at him and took Lassiter's hand in his own.
"The fortune-teller gave it to me. They're... tools, I guess. Things that are supposed to help me focus, to make the whole psychic thing go better. She said that if I learned a bit of mental discipline, it might help me control all the chaos inside my head. I..." He paused and swallowed thickly. "I could really use that right now."
Lassiter stood slowly and smiled gently at Shawn, not saying any further until he'd helped Shawn to lay buck under the covers and had him tucked into his half of the bed. Shawn's eyes followed Carlton as he walked around to his side of the bed and started pulling off his own clothing, revealing tantalizing pieces of flesh.
"Do they work?" Shawn rolled onto his side, ignoring the pain the movement caused him. His eyelids drooped dangerously, threatening to close on him.
"No idea. I haven't actually used any of it yet. The man... Lexington, he tried, but..." Shawn cut himself off and shivered. He pulled the blankets tighter around himself.
Carlton joined him in bed. Shawn completed his roll, landing with his head on Lassiter's chest and his limbs draped over his lover's body. Silence filled the room, and Shawn breathed easier now that the constant buzz of information – dampened, at least, while in Lassiter's house, but not silenced – shut off. It would be so easy to just let go and drop into a deep sleep right now. He held off. He wanted a few more minutes with Lassiter before the world went away.
"I'll worry about those things later," Shawn said, his words coming out in a sleepy slur. "Plenty of time."
Lassiter didn't answer, which Shawn took as a sort of tacit approval. He would work with the items, eventually. Maybe in a couple weeks. It was likely going to be a bit weird. Shawn had never been big on the whole New Age thing. Research had always been Gus's angle. But, there was a likelihood, however tiny, that maybe there'd be something in the box that could help him. He'd take any chance he could get.
The voices were getting stronger, just like the fortune-teller told him. He needed control, or he was going to go mad.
"Go to sleep, Shawn. I'll be here for you."
Shawn closed his eyes and let himself go. For the first time in weeks, he didn't dream.