"So, what do you think of 'the psychic'?" asked Lucinda casually as she stared at the dingy storefront through her high-powered binoculars. Stakeouts were frequently boring, and this one was going on sixteen hours with no sign of any of the suspects. At this point she would discuss anything, even Shawn Spencer, to break the tedium.
"I try not to," replied her dour partner, snapping his gum.
"He did solve the McCallum kidnapping." She lowered her binoculars and glanced at her dark-haired companion, whose steel-blue eyes were flicking sharply up and down the street, alert for any suspicious activity.
"Luck," he finally spat after careful consideration. "Did you see how surprised he was to find them dead?" Carlton's eyes rolled heavenward, then he returned his own binoculars to his face.
The head detective yanked down his binoculars and stared at his partner incredulously, head tilting slightly to the side. "You aren't suggesting calling him in on this case?"
The blonde shrugged nonchalantly. "Why not? What could it hurt?"
"You should be asking 'Who could it hurt?'" responded Lassiter testily. "These drug dealers killed a man last week. This is no place for an unarmed civilian to be running around with his dog-and-pony show."
"So arm him," suggested Lucinda reasonably, reaching for the water bottle beside her and taking a swig. 'Ugh, warm.'
Carlton was actually speechless, jaw hanging open in surprise. After a long moment he closed it with a snap, then shook his head. "Excuse me?" he finally forced through clenched teeth. "I don't think I heard you properly."
Lucinda allowed herself a small, surreptitious smile while pretending not to notice his expression; Carlton's reactions were one of the reasons she loved being with him, both on and off duty. "Did I stutter?"
His eyebrows climbed to his hairline as he slammed his binoculars against his thigh. "Are you insane? Why on earth would I give a gun to that hyperactive, infantile buffoon?!? He'd shoot himself in the foot! Worse still, given my luck lately, he'd shoot me in the foot!"
Lucinda smirked, focussing on the storefront once more; it was becoming difficult to see in the waning light. "Actually, I was down at the shooting range with him last week; he's pretty good."
Carlton snorted in disbelief, still surveying the street. "Really. What, he can hit the target one out of six tries?"
"Actually, he used my target, then proceeded to match every single bullet hole I'd put in it."
Lassiter shot her a look that screamed 'and what were you smoking that day?', but she again pretended not to notice. His eyes lit up in comprehension, and he replied, "You mean he missed the target altogether, then claimed to have shot through each of your holes. Really, why you believe his nonsense…"
Lucinda shook her head. "No, I mean there was a second hole overlapping each of mine, forming a kind of…figure eight. Took him less than thirty seconds, too."
Lassiter's disbelieving "Harumph" suddenly faded into background noise as she spotted one of the suspects strolling down the sidewalk, headed for the drop.
"Carlton, it's Jensen!" she hissed.
Lassiter snapped forward, peering intently across the street. "Where?" he asked, previous conversation a distant memory.
"Lassie! What brings you here?" queried Shawn cheerfully. He and Gus were just exiting a busy mall arcade when they literally ran into detectives Lassiter and O'Hara entering.
"None of your business, Spencer," snapped the dark-haired man irritably, raising his voice to be heard over the cacophony of sound spilling from the entrance.
"What are you doing here, Shawn?" Juliet had the sneaking suspicion that this wasn't a chance encounter.
"Oh, a bit of this and that…"
Gus rolled his eyes as he literally stamped his foot in frustration. "He just spent four hours playing 'House of the Dead' with a couple of yahoos in there."
Shawn appeared offended as he addressed his friend. "Hey, a little appreciation, Gus. That game is the classic first-person zombie shooter; I mean, living dead, high-powered weapons…what more could you want for an evening's entertainment?"
Guster was clearly upset. "Oh, I don't know, Shawn…maybe food? Music? Dancing? Something that costs more than fifty cents?"
"Hey, I saw you over on the DDR…"
"Wait a second," interrupted Lassiter, suddenly interested in the conversation. He'd actually played 'House of the Dead' occasionally when he was in the Academy, whenever the range was closed. It really was a fairly good first-person shooter, if you ignored the fact that you were killing zombies. Still, practice was practice. "Did I understand Guster to say that you played that game for four hours on just two tokens?"
"Well, other people pitched in from time to time to help out, so it was never just me versus the zombies; you stay alive longer when you team up. It's amazing the friends you make over massive violent zombie death." Shawn tilted his head curiously, "Why, do you play?"
Carlton snorted derisively. "Of course not. I outgrew that years ago." He pointed to his sidearm and continued with a smirk, "When I got a REAL gun."
Spencer nodded with a shrug. "Too bad. Might have been fun." He grinned again and punched his buddy on the shoulder. "If you think Gus dislikes dead bodies, you should see him with walking dead bodies. I can't get him within ten feet of the machine!" Turning to his friend he continued, "Dude, I keep telling you they're not real…"
"Nevermind that, these people are busy." Gus interrupted as he snagged Shawn's elbow and propelled him forward. "Come on, you promised me real food." Nodding politely to O'Hara and Lassiter, he smiled tightly, "Goodnight, Detectives."
Juliet watched bemusedly as the pair headed towards the food court. "Well, they won't find any 'real food' there," she commented, shaking her head. When Lassiter didn't answer, she turned towards him curiously. "Carlton?"
Lassiter was lost in thought, ruminating on how Spencer managed to play that arcade shoot-em-up for so long without being killed. He himself had been proud of his two-hour stretch for twenty dollars. Of course, Spencer was right about the teamwork thing; Carlton had always played alone. You were much less likely to become zombie-chow if you had a partner watching your back. Still… 'He can't be that good…can he?' He shook himself and glanced at his real-life partner, who was staring at him strangely, head tilted in silent consideration.
"Come on, let's go find Lorenzo," he snapped as he headed into the dimly-lit arcade and began searching for the young man they'd interrogated yesterday. New evidence had surfaced, possibly due to the intervention of a consulting psychic, and Lassiter now had some more questions that needed answering.
O'Hara tapped him on his shoulder and shouted in his ear, above the din of the machines, "There he is! At that upright!" She pointed unerringly at their suspect as he stood half-way down the second aisle in front of a thinning crowd of spectators.
Lassiter groaned as he recognized the 'House of the Dead' logo on the side of the machine.
Lassiter was just retrieving his jacket at the end of the shift when Buzz McNab and Sgt. Hanson blew into the precinct locker room, laughing and slapping each other on the back. Both were dressed strangely, even for a Saturday. McNab wore hunting camouflage from head to toe, to include a duckbill cap, although the 'camouflage' component of the outfit was currently marred by multiple splashes of orange, yellow, green and blue paint which had been partially wiped off. Hanson's black fatigues were likewise paint-spattered, and he had two round, visible bruises blossoming on his right upper arm.
Carlton smirked at the appearance of the two men as he leaned back against the wall, crossing his arms. "Looks like the California Highway Patrol won the tournament this year." He shook his head in mock resignation. "I knew you guys couldn't do it without me."
The annual SBPD vs. CHP paintball tournament was a longstanding tradition, and one of the few 'fun' activities Carlton allowed himself to participate in. However, someone had to be on duty at the station even during friendly competitions, and this year he had drawn the short straw. It was a shame, too, because he really was quite a good marksman, and managed to adjust to almost any weapon within just a few shots. That made him almost indispensable as a 'sniper' in the game.
Buzz's eyes lit up at the sight of his hero. "Detective Lassiter! No, sir, actually we won!" Seeing Carlton's sudden frown, he hurriedly added, "But we sure could have used you out there."
Lassiter nodded, somewhat appeased. "Well, you know my motto: 'One shot, one kill'."
Hanson chortled, "Well, that psychic's motto ought to be 'Five shots, five kills'. If those were real bullets he'd be a mass-murderer."
Lassiter's eyebrows climbed in disbelief as he stood up straight again. "Who, Spencer?"
McNab piped up, missing Carlton's mirthless expression. "You should have seen him, sir! He'd sort of…look at the field for a minute, real intense like, then pop, pop, pop, pop - four CHPs were on the ground." Buzz enthusiastically mimed a weapon firing with his hands.
"Huh," grunted the detective thoughtfully, eyes narrowing. Something nagged the edges of his awareness…something about Buzz's description… It slipped away from him, and he shook his head irritably before commenting, "Spencer always struck me like the type to blast through two hoppers of balls in the first five minutes because he's spraying everything in sight - you know, 'Greater accuracy through volume'."
"That's pretty much what we all expected," commented Hanson as he began to strip for the showers. "We even set aside an extra case just for him. Didn't need it, though; he was surprisingly low-key. I mean, he didn't even want to be the 'President' when we got to that round."
Lassiter snapped his fingers as he tried to recall the rules. "That's the game where each side has to try to get their 'President' to the other team's base, while simultaneously trying to shoot down the other team's 'President' trying to get to their base, right?" His lower lip curled derisively as he continued, "Please don't tell me he played one of the 'Secret Service Men'; I really don't see him as the type to throw himself in front of a bullet to save his 'Commander-in-Chief'."
Buzz shook his head good-naturedly. "No, he didn't. Made a heck of a 'sniper', though. The CHP 'President' didn't stand a chance. Shawn always seemed to know which path they were skulking through the woods and managed to take out the target before the guards even knew he was there. It was the most amazing thing. I guess being psychic has its benefits."
Lassiter rolled his eyes, "He's not…" he began, then decided that he didn't want to waste his breath arguing whether Spencer was actually psychic. After all, he was unsure as to what the consultant actually was, other than extraordinarily successful. Nodding once in acquiescence, he stated condescendingly, "Of, course. You're right. Yes, yes it does have…its benefits." The last was forced out through gritted teeth and a frozen smile.
McNab once again didn't notice. "Well, gotta shower before shift change!" he announced, disappearing into the adjacent bathroom. "I can't wait for next year! You and Shawn ought to team up!" floated back to the detective as he heard the shower turn on.
Having no answer to that suggestion that didn't involve 'creative' language use, Lassiter just scowled and slammed his locker shut before stalking out the door.
Winchester Canyon Gun Club
Carlton scowled at the papers on his desk, as if he could cause them to spontaneously combust by sheer force of will. Juliet, glancing over at her partner, recognized the 'I just got more legal demands from my soon-to-be-ex-wife's lawyer' look in his eyes. Steeling herself for probable rejection, she took a deep breath and sauntered casually over to his desk.
"You know what you need? A hobby," she blurted without preamble.
"Excuse me?" Lassiter was dumbfounded. Where had that come from?
"You know; get out, meet people of similar interests…"
"Similar interests." Carlton stared at her as if she had grown a second head, then leaned back in his chair and spread his hands to the side, humoring her. "All right. Like what?"
"Well, what do you like to do?" O'Hara asked.
"My job," he replied dryly, tilting forward, setting aside the legal letter, and pulling a casefile from his inbox. "Perhaps you should follow my example."
His partner just shook her head in mock resignation. "Come on, Carlton." Her eyes widened with an idea, and she snapped her fingers. "I know! With as much time as you spend on the range downstairs, why don't you join the Winchester Canyon Gun Club? It's the only civilian firing range in Santa Barbara, and you might make a friend or two." She shrugged, "At least you'd enjoy yourself."
"I'd 'enjoy myself' if you let me get back to work. You should do the same." He stared pointedly at her desk.
Nodding once in defeat, she replied, "Right. Work. Going now." Without a backwards glance, she ducked her head in embarrassment and retreated to her own desk.
Lassiter completely forgot the suggestion until the following Saturday. The only thing on TV was a 'Cops' rerun he'd seen 4 times, so he decided to research the facility. Booting up his computer, he did a quick search. Their website claimed that it was an outdoor range, with facilities for shotgun, rifle, and pistol practice. Worth a look, he supposed. It was a nice day, after all.
A short drive up 154 brought him to a squat, clean, single-level brick building. He parked in the paved visitors' lot, then walked inside. The interior was surprisingly comfortable; upscale enough to appeal to his more refined sensibilities, but functional enough to entice his practical side. He strode up to the front desk, where a professional-looking young man in a button-down shirt was just hanging up the phone.
"May I help you, sir?"
"Perhaps." Carlton was unwilling to commit to anything. "Guns are my…hobby," he used O'Hara's word, for lack of a better one of his own. "I was interested in a tour of you facilities."
"Let me get a Rangemaster."
The young man was efficient; Lassiter had only been waiting a few minutes before he was approached by a gray-haired man in his fifties wearing a shoulder-holster.
"Hello. I'm Bill Richards, one of the Rangemasters at the club today. I understand you have a few questions, Mr….?"
"Lassiter. Carlton Lassiter." He almost added 'Head Detective of the SBPD', but stopped himself at the last moment. 'Need to know' information, and they didn't need to know. "I'm interested in possibly joining your club."
"Well, Mr. Lassiter, they say 'a picture is worth a thousand words'. Let me show you around the facility."
Without further ado the tour began. The club had several outdoor, sheltered shooting areas with fifty, seventy-five, and two hundred yard ranges, and was open sunup to sundown seven days a week. Targets were paper, clay, metallic silhouette, and falling plate. They even had an area for muzzle-loading fire, which was forbidden at the police range, but would be quite helpful for his Civil War reenactment practice. Throughout the tour, Mr. Richards kept pointing out and stressing the safety features as well as the rules and regulations that helped prevent stupid accidents. Carlton was impressed.
Back at the clubhouse, Mr. Richards offered him a cup of coffee, then asked, "So, what do you think?"
Lassiter allowed a small smile. "Frankly, I'm surprised. I was expecting something much less professional."
"Well, we've been incorporated since 1955; we've had time to learn from our mistakes and get it right."
"I notice that you have muzzle loading black powder rifle competitions every month. Do many members work with antique weaponry?"
"Oh yes, about fifty. We also have monthly IDPA matches on the 200 yard range, falling plate action pistol on the 25 yard range, and 'cowboy action shooting matches' where people even dress up." He led the way over to an awards cabinet. "We participate on State and National levels as well; there's the California Bear Trophy we won two years ago." He pointed proudly at the cup set prominently in the center of the case.
Lassiter's eyes wandered over the other awards, until his eyes widened at a familiar name. Jabbing a finger at the plaque, he demanded, "Shawn Spencer? Thirty-ish, brown hair, slender, about 5'8"?"
Richards chuckled, "Irreverent sense of humour? Yep, that's him. He shows up every once in a while, shoots for hours at a time, day after day, then disappears again for months. I think it must be stress relief; the jokes don't start coming out until he's nearly ready to go." He studied Lassiter quizzically. "Why, you know him?"
Carlton was going to be sick. "I…work with him, sometimes." He studied the Rangemaster with narrowed eyes. "Is he really that good?"
Richards snorted. "I'll say. That boy can hit whatever he wants, whenever he wants, at any distance. Damnedest thing I ever saw. Once Johnson talked him into competing in the monthly IDPA contest; got the second highest score on record at the club. That's his name on the plaque, there." He shook his head appreciatively. "Someone taught him right, probably since he was a child; you don't come by that kind of skill unless you grow up around guns. I'd sure like to see him on the club pistol team; can't talk him into it, though." He shrugged. "Says he doesn't believe in commitment, whatever that means."
Lassiter rolled his eyes. "Sounds like Spencer, all right."
The Interrogation Room
Lassiter stared into the dingy, green-and-white stucco room through the two-way mirror, carefully observing its lone occupant. He couldn't remember ever seeing Spencer so…still; it was unnatural. The psychic consultant sat slumped, unmoving, in the stiff plastic chair on the opposite side of the table from the glass. He must have known he would be observed, but couldn't muster the energy to care. His chin rested on his chest while his eyes, unseeing, were fixed on his hands clasped in his lap. The cold glare of the overhead fluorescent light accented the white sheaf of paper as it rested unmarked on the table, pen beside it. Spencer hadn't even begun to write out his account of the shooting. Instead, he just sat there, a poster-child for dejection.
That confused the head detective. Shawn wasn't under arrest; far from it. From every report he'd heard so far, including that of his own partner, Spencer was the hero of this play. Lassiter wouldn't be surprised if McNab was out organizing a congratulatory party at that very minute. Yet the hunched psychic looked as if he expected to be thrown in a cell and the key 'lost' forever.
It didn't make sense. Carlton rolled his eyes; if this was some elaborate game, he was going to consider the jail cell after all.
Only one way to find out what was going on. Shaking his head, Carlton yanked open the door and stalked over to the table. "So, have you finished your statement?" he demanded, crossing his arms, knowing full well that the paper was untouched. Spencer didn't even acknowledge his presence, much less the question; he just kept staring at his folded hands.
"Spencer?" A pause; no response. Lassiter's foot began to tap. "Spencer, look at me." Carlton was getting irritable; he didn't appreciate being ignored. "Spencer, I need your statement for the record." Still no answer. Finally grimacing in distaste at the personal contact, he reached over and grasped the consultant's shoulder to get his attention.
And was surprised when startled red-rimmed eyes shot up to meet his own. Carlton blinked at the consultant's deer-in-headlights stare. 'Okaayyyy…not a joke, then.' Brows furrowing, he questioned, "Spencer, you do know you are not under arrest, don't you?"
Shawn folded his hands on the table, then resumed staring at them. "Maybe I should be."
"What?" The head detective was taken aback.
Spencer fixed him with an uncomfortably intense glare. "I killed a man today, Lassie."
Lassiter's eyebrow rose in disbelief. "And from all accounts saved the lives of both Detective O'Hara and that little girl." Carlton didn't understand Spencer's problem. The kidnapper had been located in the warehouse, but the FBI and the SBPD had worked at crossed purposes. Somehow, in the ensuing confusion, the criminal managed to murder one of the FBI officers, then get the drop on O'Hara. Only Shawn's quick thinking kept her from being the next victim; the kidnapped eight-year-old was later located tied and gagged in the manager's office. She was otherwise unharmed.
Spencer obviously saw the situation differently. He took a deep, sighing breath and released it slowly, as if to calm his nerves. "I should have been able to talk him out of it. I always talk them out of it. My voice is my most effective weapon!"
'Oh, for the love of…' Lassiter rolled his eyes as he dropped heavily into the other chair. "The man had already shot and killed a Federal agent and had a gun to O'Hara's head as he used her for a shield." Oh, and didn't the head detective feel guilty about that - he himself had been across town chasing another useless lead concerning the girl's whereabouts when the tip came in. If his partner had gotten her brains blown out… But no. He wasn't going there, not even mentally. "Besides, I heard that you tried to get him to surrender first."
"Yeah, talking from behind a crate. I just…maybe if I'd come out into the open, he'd have trusted me more. Maybe I could have gotten him to release Juliet without having to shoot him."
Carlton snorted. "Yeah, and maybe you would have gotten killed yourself." Shaking his head, he continued, "And I don't even want to think about what your father would say to me if that happened."
"No 'buts', Spencer; the man was a murderer, and had O'Hara at gunpoint." He drew back with a grimace. "Don't tell me you regret saving her life?"
"Of course not." The 'but' remained; Lassiter could still hear it. He decided to try a different approach.
"Agent Young was impressed, by the way," he commented casually, studying his own well-manicured fingernails. "Said that head-shot was one-in-a-million."
That got Shawn's attention. He glanced up at the Detective, clearly surprised that Lassiter would admit such a thing to him, before returning his gaze to his lap. "I got lucky."
"Well, I hope it was more than 'luck'," snarled Carlton, suddenly leaning forward and fixing Shawn with his most intense stare. "Two inches off, and you would have killed Detective O'Hara."
Spencer looked up in desperation. "It was the only shot I could take! He had Jules covering the rest of his body, and his finger was tightening on the trigger. I didn't have a choice!"
Lassiter smiled smugly as he sat back in gratification. "Exactly. You. Didn't. Have. A. Choice." He pointed to the blank paper on the table. "Just write it down. Then you can go." He stood to leave, his mission, at least for the time being, accomplished. Reaching the door, he paused to add, "Oh, and make sure you stop by O'Hara's desk before you leave; she wants to thank you herself…something about being 'extremely grateful'…"
The detective ignored the surprised expression in Shawn's eyes as he abruptly pulled open the door and left the room. A surreptitious glance back through the mirror showed the consultant slowly reaching for the pen, relief radiating from his face. The corner of Carlton's lip quirked up in satisfaction. Now he just needed to warn O'Hara.
"Well, this is a fine mess you've gotten us into," growled Lassiter, clutching his right shoulder. Blood ran steadily through whitened fingers despite his best efforts at applying pressure. He grimaced in pain as he shifted against the protective crate, trying to sit up straighter without accidentally discharging the pistol he still kept gripped in his right hand. 'Thank Sweet Justice they didn't hit a nerve,' he thought, trying unsuccessfully to ignore the pain from his wound. The concrete floor was uncomfortably cold through his trousers, and he slowly became aware that they were damp as well. Glancing down, he realized he was sitting in a small puddle of his own blood. 'Great,' he groused internally, 'Now I've ruined the pants as well. This was an expensive suit!'
"Hey, can I help it if my visions didn't specify 'gun-wielding criminals still at scene'?" Spencer's comment pulled him back to their bigger issues. "Besides, you were the one who just wanted to 'check to see if there was anything to my spirits' information' before calling for back-up. Maybe next time you'll believe me and at least bring Jules." 'Not that I really want Jules in danger, but still…a little help right now would be nice.' The psychic's sharp eyes scanned the back of the warehouse, alert for movement on their exposed side, before returning to fix on the injured detective once more. 'That's really…quite a bit of blood,' he thought uncomfortably as he reached for Carlton's shoulder, ineffectively trying to hide his concern. He lowered his voice, not wanting their assailant to know he'd scored a hit. "Here, let me take a look at that."
"It's nothing; just a scratch," grunted the head detective, swatting him away as best he could. There was no way he was going to allow anyone short of trained EMTs near his injury. Pointing with his chin towards Spencer's pocket, he rapidly changed the subject. "You manage to get out on your cellphone?"
"Yeah, they'll be here in ten." Shawn's expression proved he knew that the detective was trying to distract him, but decided to let it slide. He crouched down to floor level and peeked around the crate's corner, trying unsuccessfully to get a visual on their sniper. He jerked back as a shot pinged the concrete next to his head. "Didn't peg his position," he whispered to the detective.
Uncomfortable with the worry he'd seen in the psychic's eyes, Lassiter responded, "Let me try". Before Spencer could argue, he carefully rotated to his knees, then inched up further to peer over the top of the bin, only to drop back heavily to the floor as another bullet ricocheted past, splintering off a bit of wood this time. The sudden movement caused a white-hot explosion of agony to emanate from his shoulder, blanking out the rest of the world momentarily. He gulped air in small panting breaths as he tried to quell the nausea that suddenly threatened to have him re-examining his breakfast. A cold sweat appeared on his forehead, but he didn't have the energy to wipe it away.
"Didn't spot him," he commented unnecessarily once he'd gotten his voice under control. His eyes slid closed as he concentrated on controlling the torment in his shoulder. "We might be in trouble…" he began.
"Ya think? Let me see that!" Spencer had had it with stubborn, injured head detectives who were trying to bleed to death while pinned down by the bad guys. He latched onto Lassiter's left hand, prying the tense fingers away from their death-grip on the bullet wound, pointedly ignoring the sticky sensation of warm, congealing blood beneath his fingertips. To his annoyance, he couldn't tell much through the layers of Lassiter's clothing, other than there was still active bleeding.
"Leave it," hissed Carlton, blanching white and jerking away. "There's nothing you can do to help."
Spencer winced sympathetically, but remained firm in his resolve to examine the wound. "Take off your coat."
"Spencer, we have more serous problems than a little flesh wound in my shoulder," growled Carlton. "There were two guys shooting before. Only one shot at us just now, so ask yourself - where's the second criminal?"
"Hey, you think I haven't considered that?" Shawn replied, glancing up and scanning the back wall once again. 'It's all I've been thinking about for the last ten minutes.' "I can keep a lookout and check your shoulder at the same time; it's called 'multitasking', and I'm quite good at it." Shawn babbled distractedly as he pulled at the sleeve of Lassiter's suit, then raised his voice loud enough to be heard by the shooters. "Hey Jamison! You know we've called for backup, right? Cops'll be here any second!"
He was answered by another bullet pinging overhead, then a gruff voice bellowed from the direction of the gunfire, "Yeah, well by then you two will be dead, and we'll be gone." OK, the burly ringleader was still where they'd left him.
"And how do you plan to do that? You're not much of a marksman. How about you, Pacheco? You able to hit the broad side of a barn?" By this time Shawn had Lassiter's jacket off the sweating man and had torn open his shirt at the shoulder, exposing the bullet tract. There was a neat entry wound just below the clavicle in the upper axilla, with a slightly larger exit wound just below the shoulder joint in the back. From the blood still pouring out, it was possible that he had an arterial injury. Spencer quickly pulled off his own shirt and began ripping it into strips. "Pacheco? You playing hard-to-get?" Spencer's eyes darted around the part of the warehouse visible to him, still watching for movement as he wadded up bits of his own shirt and pressed them firmly against both wounds. The detective's eyes, which had remained tightly closed to this point, flew open at the sudden stabbing sensation caused by the pressure. The sweat was now running off in rivulets, but he bit his lip and managed not to cry out.
Spencer took a deep breath and ignored the shaking he could feel beneath his hands as he continued to dress the wounds. To distract them both, he concentrated on locating the second shooter. "Pacheco?" he called out again as he firmly secured the makeshift compress with more strips from his shirt wound around the shoulder. No answer. "I think Pacheco is trying to flank us," Spencer leaned in and whispered to Lassiter as he tied the knots tight. His lips firmed to a thin line as he considered his next words.
"Detective, I need your gun."
Carlton fixed him with an incredulous stare and struggled to sit up straighter. "Over my dead body," he growled, arching an eyebrow.
"It might come to that. Listen, we probably only have a few minutes. Pacheco must be working his way to a position where he can see us; when he does, I should be able to see him as well." Shawn stared at Lassiter intently, willing him to understand the quick, clipped words. "We may only have one shot, and right now you're in no position to take it." He nodded to the bandaged shoulder in emphasis.
"Spencer, I'm sure I can handle my weapon better than you, injured or not." He painfully pulled up his gun with his right hand and balanced it on his knee, pointing towards their exposed flank.
Shawn's gaze was as hard as diamond. "No. You can't." The words held all the certainty that the consultant could project. "Not in your condition."
Lassiter met the stare for a moment before dropping his eyes, acknowledging that Spencer might be right, but still reluctant to hand over his weapon. That was when he noticed a flash of movement off to his left.
The psychic had seen it, too. With blinding speed the pistol was snatched out of Lassiter's loosening grip and fired in the direction of the activity, as simultaneously a shot rang out from that locale. There was a satisfying cry of pain from the direction of their new attacker, but the gratification was short-lived. Carlton's brow crinkled in concern as he heard Shawn grunt as he completed an impromptu forward roll. He was reminded of the first suspect as another bullet pinged overhead from Jamison's position. In an instant Spencer had swiveled to face forward, coming up on one knee and bracing the gun before letting loose a second shot, this time at the ringleader. A yelp of pain from the front, then only moaning from both directions.
"I think I got them," panted the psychic as he scurried back to the detective in a low crab-walk. "How's the shoulder?" Setting the gun down beside Carlton's right hand, he carefully inspected his bandage to assure that it was still tight.
"How's yours?" asked Carlton, staring pointedly at the blood now running down Spencer's left arm.
Shawn seemed to notice his own injury for the first time, turning his arm back and forth to get a better view. "Huh. Guess Pacheco wasn't as bad a marksman as I thought." The wound was through-and-through the outer part of his upper arm and, while bleeding freely, appeared to be a clean shot through the muscle. He snagged some more strips of his shirt from the pile on the concrete and awkwardly tried to wind them in place.
"Let me do that!" snarled Lassiter, rolling his eyes and leaning forward to snatch the makeshift bandage from the psychic's hands. He blinked briefly as the room whirled around him, but a few slow breaths later it had settled down. Glancing at Spencer's face, he was irritated at the concern that had reappeared.
"What?!?" he growled, grabbing the consultant's arm resolutely and inspecting the wound.
"You OK, Lassie? You looked a little wobbly there for a second."
"I'm fine," gritted the detective, even though he was certain Spencer saw through his fabrication and was ready to call him on it. Time to change the subject again. "Where'd you learn to shoot like that?"
To his surprise and relief, it worked. Shawn waved his right hand randomly in the air as his eyes shifted away uncomfortably. "Oh, here and there…you know. Mostly from my Dad, though. He always wanted me to be a cop." He hissed in pain. "Hey, not so tight there, de Sade!"
Carlton didn't look up from the bandaging. "It has to be tight to slow the bleeding; you know that, Spencer. You proved you know it on my shoulder."
"Oh, so this is some sort of sick payback, huh?" He lifted his head as the sound of approaching sirens filtered into the building. "Huh. Sounds like the cavalry has arrived." He grunted as Lassiter tied the last knot. "And not a moment too soon." He glanced up towards where he'd shot each criminal, straining to see any movement. Nothing, although moaning could still be discerned from both directions.
"They might be playing possum…" he mumbled worriedly.
Lassiter leaned back against the crate, waiting for the EMTs to arrive, and snorted in derision. "No, you got them. They're down."
Shawn tilted his head consideringly. "How do you know?"
Lassiter chuckled. "I've finally seen you shoot."
Detective Lassiter knocked tentatively on Karen Vick's door, wondering what the chief needed to speak to him about. It couldn't be a case; he wasn't currently working one. After the shoot-out, he'd needed surgery to stop the bleeding, which turned out to be from a torn branch of the axillary artery. Miraculously, the bullet managed to miss the brachial plexus, so he still had full movement in that arm, but the doctor put him in a sling for comfort when at work. He'd been in the hospital for two days, then off-duty on convalescent leave for two weeks. Currently he was restricted to desk duty for another two to four weeks, until his physician cleared him. Still, all-in-all, it could have been worse.
"Come in," came the somewhat preoccupied response to his knock.
"You needed to see me, Chief?" Carlton carefully hid his anxiety, schooling his face to be as open and receptive as possible.
Chief Vick looked up from the files on her desk and smiled a welcome. "Yes, Detective Lassiter. Have a seat." She gestured to one of the padded chairs in front of her desk, which he took gratefully. Despite a transfusion of four units of blood, he still found himself easily winded.
Turning to the stack of papers on her left, she shuffled through them for a moment before finding the form she was searching for. Meeting Carlton's expectant gaze, she continued, "I'm sorry to bother you with something so petty, but as you know, the California Police Pistol Association Regional match is coming up in a few weeks. Now, normally I wouldn't have to think twice about who should represent the SBPD at this function; unfortunately, my first pick is currently sitting in front of me with his dominant arm in a sling."
Carlton dropped his eyes and smiled slightly, pleased with the compliment. "Thank you, Chief. But I agree, I'd make a pretty poor showing for our department right now."
"Well, that's why I called you in here." She took a deep breath, then plunged ahead. "Do you have any suggestions on who should take your place?"
Lassiter stared at her, mouth hanging slightly ajar. Pointing with his good hand to his chest, he clarified, "You're asking my opinion?"
"Absolutely. You're my Head Detective. You know who goes to the range regularly, and how good they are. You also know the personalities of men in this department, and who might fold under the pressure of competition. So yes, I'm asking your opinion."
Carlton stared over her left shoulder, eyes narrowed in concentration as he mentally ran the list of policemen in the department. Vick could tell when he'd come up with a suggestion, because his eyes widened then rolled to focus on her face. What surprised her was the vaguely uncomfortable expression that had settled on his features as well.
At his continued silence, Karen finally snapped, "Well? I can tell you have someone in mind."
"Umm…" Carlton actually squirmed, causing Vick to arch her eyebrow. Finally he responded with a question of his own. "Does the entrant have to be a member of the department, or only associated with it?"
The Chief blinked, then hastily consulted the application form in front of her. "It says here that part-time employees are eligible as well."
"What about consultants?"
Karen's eyebrows shot up in astonishment. "You're suggesting I send Spencer?!?"
Carlton shifted again uncomfortably, unable to meet her eyes. "Well, as long as no one is judging him on adult behavior…he's probably the best marksman in the department." His eyes widened and he hurriedly added, "Except for me, of course."
Chief Vick smiled. "Of course." She paused for a moment, then tilted her head to the side. "Wasn't he injured in the warehouse arrest as well?"
"Yes, but it was relatively superficial. They cleaned it out in the emergency department and released him that day." His mouth quirked into a half-smile. "You should have heard him complaining about the tetanus booster they gave him; anyone that concerned about a little needle can't be hurt all that bad."
Shrugging, she set the form on her desk, then folded her hands. "All right, Detective, I'll take your recommendation under advisement. That will be all."
Lassiter nodded, then frowned as a thought occurred to him. "Uh, Chief?"
"If you decide to ask him, please don't let Spencer know where the suggestion came from. After all, I have a reputation to uphold."
Karen smiled. "He won't hear it from me."
Lassiter nodded once and hurried out of the office. Closing the door behind himself, he paused for a moment before returning to his desk. Down the corridor he could see Spencer and his sidekick at the reception window, joking with the officer on duty. The psychic was enthusiastically telling a story to his captive audience, gesturing wildly with both arms to demonstrate his points. 'I'd say he's recovered completely from his gunshot wound.' Carlton smiled to himself as he imagined Spencer at a regional marksmanship competition; that might be worth the price of admission just to watch. Of course, then everyone would see him shoot.