Disclaimer: The television show 'Psych' and the characters of 'Psych' are not mine. This story intends no copyright infringement.
So, once upon a time Shawn made a side trip to Haiti. It was during his 'traveler of the world' phase, where he was trying to set foot on every continent the Earth had to offer at least once. Haiti hadn't exactly been in his plans, but the glorious thing about being Shawn Spencer was that his plans were perpetually flexible, if they even existed at all.
While he was in Haiti, he ran into a few bad scenes. Typically enough he managed to charm his way out of them – played the 'wide-eyed clueless tourist' to the hilt – yet still managed to notice that some of the people who wandered around in the dark corners of the bars and storefronts weren't quite right.
They shuffled rather than walked; their eyes were curiously flat and unseeing; they never spoke except for in a mumbling stream of sound that resembled no language Shawn had ever come across. It was as if they were sleepwalkers, or brainwashed, or dead.
"All of the above," his chosen Gus of the week told him. (Shawn had a tradition where, once he had decided he was going to stay in one spot for longer than a day, he would pick out of his random acquaintances someone to be Gus – someone predictable and reliable and in need of adventure, someone who would put up with Shawn's off-the-rails spontaneous approach to life, who would gripe and complain but actually enjoy the insanity of it.) His chosen Gus of the week was a native Haitian who was studying abroad at Berkeley, making a trip back home. His name was, improbably enough, Bob. "The bokor, spirit master, whatever you want to call him – he has ways of enslaving people. Sometimes dead people, sometimes living people who fall under his sway. So they are like sleepwalkers, or the brainwashed, or the dead."
"Huh," Shawn replied. He hadn't thought Bob would be quite so superstitious. Though that did sort of fit in with the whole criteria of what it took to be a stand-in Gus, given Gus was gullible and still believed in ghosts.
Shawn made a mental note of the particular glaze in the sleepwalkers' eyes, stored it away in his memory, and enjoyed the island party life.
Four years later Shawn sees that same look in the eyes of the latest murderer arrested by Santa Barbara's finest. Well, damn, he thinks to himself. The case just got a hell of a lot more interesting.
After Shawn called a dinosaur as a murder weapon and was actually right, he'd thought there'd be just a smidgeon more trust in his (fake) psychic abilities. But when he stumbles into Chief Vick's office and mumbles, "Braiiiiiiiiiiins," no one takes him seriously.
"No, really," he insists. "Zombies!"
Chief Vick doesn't say anything. She just points to the door.
At the Psych office, Shawn brainstorms by drawing various cartoon zombies on scraps of paper, balling the scraps together, and throwing them at Gus's head. Gus's protests to the contrary, he really does have a big head, which makes aiming for it particularly easy.
Eventually Gus gets fed up of this. He closes his laptop, huffs, and stands. "If you're not going to do anything productive today, then I need to hit at least two of the stops on my route."
Shawn is about to launch into a spiel about how his genius cannot be rushed, it is a process, when he spots something outside the front windows. His interest captured, he says, vaguely, "Yes, right, sure, go."
He is peripherally aware of the strange look Gus throws at him. But Gus still turns to leave, pausing when Shawn calls after him – "Hey, movie night tonight? My place. You bring the popcorn, I'll bring the pineapple."
Shawn can practically feel Gus considering whether or not he should participate in a Shawn Spencer movie night – the last time hadn't ended so well, culminating in an early morning trip to the Emergency room followed by getting lost in the lower levels of the hospital and stumbling into the refrigeration units where they kept the recently dead – yet Gus remains, as ever, an optimistically trusting fool.
"No horror," Gus says. "I mean it, Shawn. Horror movies are off the line up. Forever."
Shawn nods, not taking his gaze off the front windows. "Got it," he says. "No horror." The Romero movies are for research purposes, not horror. And the Resident Evil ones are for hotness, because Milla Jovovich? Smoking.
What has captured Shawn's interest outside is a certain stumbling individual, shambling along, eyes that particular flat shade that he has seen only a handful of times before.
"Hmm," Shawn says to himself, and grabs his keys, and locks the Psych Agency Office up after him as he leaves.
He follows the man into a restaurant, one that is neither too exclusive nor too cheap – middle of the line, nice, dressy-casual. It has cloth table covers and candles on its counters, but the flowers are fake – that sort of place – and Shawn feels a prickle of dread tingle up his spine.
He rushes in after the man and catches him just as he is about to attack a young couple, knife raised in one hand, face eerily blank.
The knife goes wild as the man fights back.
Shawn feels the blade of it slide into the side of his neck. Blood spray splashes against the man's face – Shawn absentmindedly notes the exact pattern, stores it in his brain in that involuntary fashion he has had trained into him and never managed to ignore – and the man collapses, as if he were a puppet and his strings have just been cut. The knife clatters to the ground. Shawn's arms are full of deadweight man, which he lets go of to clap both hands to his neck wound.
Oh God, he thinks. Did – is this – oh god, did he get my carotid?
Five hours later, Shawn has the opportunity to reflect that hospital room ceilings are always the same. It does not matter the room, the state, the country – the ceilings are always exactly the same.
What is also always exactly the same ---
"Oh my God you idiot."
---- Gus, freaking out.
Shawn smiles. He says, voice slightly slurred from the pain meds, "Hey, do you think they'll let us have a movie night in here? You can have half my hospital bed."
Gus glares at him and stalks off, probably to call Shawn's dad or something else equally lame.
So it turns out his carotid was not in fact nicked. Because that would have resulted in one very dead Shawn. No – he is sliced very haphazardly, in a way that produced an initially terrifying amount of blood, but actually managed to avoid all the major danger zones in the neck – of which there are many.
Sometimes Shawn thinks he must have been born under a lucky star, because that is the only thing that explains him.
And then he remembers that his father is Henry Spencer. Which rules luck right out, but perhaps the universe is inherently benevolent after all, and all of the good fortune it throws Shawn's way is tacit apology for having been raised by such a man.
The next morning he is released. His neck is heavily bandaged, but at least he can still turn his head. And Gus was kind to him, acknowledged that having Henry around would make Shawn feel worse overall, and didn't call the curmudgeon, not even just to let him know that Shawn had been hospitalized. Shawn doesn't always appreciate how Gus always puts him first, even when Gus gripes and groans and complains about it – but he does this time, makes a silent promise to himself to let up on driving Gus insane for at least a week. Well, a weekend.
Given that Shawn is a known entity to the police station, they declined to question him while he was hospitalized, requesting instead that he come in to give his statement. Shawn insists this be the first stop, even before his own apartment – Gus sighs, and goes along with him.
(Shawn has multiple reasons for wanting to go to the police station right away.
The first reason is he wants to break out his zombie act for Chief Vick, again.
The second reason is he wants to find out about the man who so nearly killed him.
The third reason is today is Thursday, and Lassiter always goes to a little corner coffee shop for lunch on Thursdays, coming back in with a grande mocha latte and a chocolate brownie – and Shawn fully intends on stealing both.
The fourth reason is that he is highly aware that he looks utterly pathetic, pale and shaking, on the verge of collapse – and that this will probably earn him significant sympathy points from Jules.)
"Zombies," Shawn insists. "Zombies!"
Chief Vick is no more willing to listen than before. She says, "Thank you for your help, Mr. Spencer, Mr. Guster." And then inclines her head toward the door.
Shawn huffs on his way out.
While munching on Lassy's brownie and drinking Lassy's coffee, Shawn reflects that convincing Chief Vick of his zombie hypothesis will probably take more proof than he currently has. Yet, still – she should believe him by now! He's never wrong! He has a 100 solve rate! Where is the trust?
A hand grabs him by the shoulder, whirls him around. Lassiter's angry blue eyes are like lasers punching through Shawn's face.
"You stole my brownie," Lassiter grits, and narrows his gaze, adding, "And my coffee."
Shawn grins, attempting to look rakish. He's fairly certain he succeeds until he catches his reflection in a pane of glass, and realizes that the giant bandages swathing his neck and the sickly grey tinge his skin has taken on detract from any charm he can manage to muster up. "They were just lying there… abandoned, unloved!" Shawn says. "I am giving them a worthy home. In my stomach."
Lassy looks as if his internal organs pain him, as if his intestines are reaching up their looping lengths to his throat to strangle him from the inside, he is so infuriated by Shawn. He lets go of Shawn's shoulder and steps back. "This is the only time," he says, "The only time I will ever let you get away with stealing my brownie. And my coffee."
Before Shawn can come up with a suitable reply, a young female voice is crying, "Oh my god, that's him! He's the one! He saved us from that mad man!"
He turns, and sees the couple from the other day – standing with Jules, being interviewed, or whatever it is that the police code is calling it these days.
Shawn tosses a grin to Lassy, polishes off the rest of the brownie, and heads on over to the people whose lives he may well have saved. It's nice, basking in adulation.
Except it's not adulation that the male half of the couple heaps upon Shawn.
His stare is cold enough to freeze Shawn into a Shawnsicle; Shawn files this fact away into one of the many corners of his memory, for a later date where it will all miraculously make sense the way so many things seem to happen for him.
When he is done making small talk with the not-so-grateful couple, he turns to leave – Gus ahead of him five paces – and is stopped by Jules' hand on his arm, hesitant.
Shawn turns to face her and attempts a grin. It feels a bit flat on his face. She says to him, "You don't look so good," and he winces at both the words and the worry blatant on her face. Because even though he sort of wants to have her Florence Nightingale him, at the same time, he doesn't like how anxiety twists the lines of her forehead into tortured lines, doesn't like how her voice carries that current of strain.
"I'm fine, Jules," he reassures. He pushes the thought that, well, if the knife had slashed even a millimeter one way or the other he could have died. He says, "I'll catch you later, okay?" And feebly punches her on the shoulder to denote he is feeling buddy-buddy and not at all awkward.
She smiles, though the worry doesn't fade from her face.
Shawn pulls the guilt-and-worry card on Gus shamelessly, though, saying that while he has been ordered by doctors to take it easy for the next two weeks, he will die of boredom if he isn't working on the case in at least some aspect.
Gus sighs, weary, and relents to renting all of Romero's ghastly graphic zombie movies, as well as the Resident Evil series. (Though, as Shawn had suspected, Gus doesn't protest nearly as much at the Resident Evil movies. Because, dude, Mila Jovovich – you can't get any better when it comes to action flick chick.)
They are heading back into the Psych Agency Office for a movie all-nighter, when Shawn notices –
A familiar blue pick up truck. Rusty, falling apart.
Henry Spencer outside of it, leaning against the driver's side door, arms folded across his chest, ball-cap tilted over his face, hiding his eyes.
He is the very picture of 'not happy'.
Shawn belatedly wishes he had come up with some way to hide the bandages on his neck because there is no way it is ever a good idea for Henry Spencer to see his son injured. It tends to make him – irrational. In a most annoying way.
Two hours later and Shawn is at his father's beach front home.
"I have a perfectly good apartment," Shawn says.
Henry doesn't respond, either via look or voice – keeps his back to Shawn, doesn't say a word, is eerily silent and still.
"Technically, keeping me here against my will is kidnapping," Shawn tries again.
Gus has left him behind like the traitor he is. He hastily dropped Shawn off outside the Psych Agency Office and then drove away, recognizing the look in Spencer Senior's eyes for what it was – overwhelming Papa Bear rage. Gus has lived through it before; it has never been pretty.
"Oh, come on," Shawn says, "I'm a grown man, you seriously don't have to do this."
"Shawn," Henry finally says, still without turning around, "If you don't shut up right now I am going to handcuff you to the sofa and duct tape your mouth shut." He finally moves, turns his body, faces Shawn – and the look on his face is terrible to see. His every feature is carved into harsh lines, stark and unforgiving. His eyes are so much more intent than Shawn has ever seen, even when Henry was at his most dedicated in the line of duty. Henry's gaze flicks down to the wad of cotton bandaging bundled about Shawn's neck. "Non-negotiable."
Shawn resigns himself to a night in his father's home.
It's not all bad. Apparently Henry can't stand zombie gore. He mutters something about stress flashbacks to when Shawn was a teenager, and stomps off.
Shawn manages to drive his father off for some much needed 'alone' time simply by putting in the first of the Romero movies. "Night of the Living Dead", or something like that.
At some point Shawn falls asleep.
His dreams are full of hungry noises.
Later on, when he wakes up he figures that the hungry noises were just from the television screen, the sound of zombies devouring human flesh.
It doesn't make the dreams he did have any less creepy in retrospect, however.
His dad doesn't let him go home until Monday rolls around. Even then, he gives Shawn the eyeball, tersely commands, "You check in with me every night. If I hear you landed yourself in the hospital again…" and his voice trails off, ominous.
In the three days and four nights that Shawn has stayed at his father's house, he has achieved these things:
Sneakily rearranged Henry's tackle box so that the lures are organized in descending order of which is shiniest. Shawn has always been a bit of a magpie, occupied with the glitter of jewelry or chocolate bar wrappers – part of his fixation on candy as a child, not because of the taste, but because of the foil they came with.
Switched the salt in the salt shaker for sugar. And then, for good measure, switched the sugar in the sugar canister for salt. (This will come back to haunt him in two weeks, when his father surprises him with homemade pineapple spice cookies. Shawn is too surprised and touched by the gesture to admit that the cookies are horrifically salty and instead eats them with tall glasses of milk.) (Henry never admits that he knows of Shawn's sugar-salt switch, and that this is his own oblique way of getting revenge. Some fathers and sons go golfing together. This is what the Spencer men do, instead.)
Read through Henry's entire collection of who-dunnits, most of which are woefully inadequate in terms of plot, characterization, and believability. If Shawn had the patience to do so, he could most definitely write a better mystery than these so-called 'greats'.
Started a spontaneous bonfire. Henry was mad about that one. He yelled something about, "Furniture is not firewood!" But honestly by that point Shawn had been so bored he had tuned Henry out.
Found Henry's secret diaries ("Journals", Henry called them in his entries, yet Shawn knew what he saw when he saw it, and Henry had a collection of diaries that fourteen-year-old girls would die of envy to see) and flipped through them. Shawn had initially been interested in reading them in detail to collect dirt on his father – yet all the entries ever seemed to say were either, "My son is an idiot and this is why – blah blah blah," or lists of recipes. Though he did find the much scratched out evidence of what might have been a poem at the very back of one of Henry's diaries – Shawn had been so weirded out by that that he had stopped reading immediately and altogether, placing Henry's diaries back in their hiding place and resolving never to mention having found them to his father. Ever.
Called Gus a total of fifty-seven times. Gus had stopped picking up after the seventh call. Shawn had fun coming up with insulting rhymes and ditties to sing into Gus's answering machine, along the lines of how Gus was a traitorous best friend who left poor injured psychic detectives to the mercy of looming, hulking, ominous he-men.
Called Chief Vick a total of twelve times. She threatened to get a restraining order against him if he attempted a number thirteen, and her voice had just enough of a crazed tilt to it that Shawn believed her. He was always more convincing in person, anyhow.
Called Lassy a total of twenty-three times. Mostly just so that he could practice his fake voices on the Irish detective, see which ones – his high pitched falsetto, his New Yorker, his yokel from the sticks – would provoke a hang up the fastest.
Attempted to call Juliet ten times. He never quite managed to punch in the last number of her sequence. It was kind of pathetic, really.
Worked out one of the fundamental logical questions posed to modern philosophers. It was surprisingly simple. But probably only if you had memorized every philosophical text ever written – which Shawn cringes to admit he has, partially due to an ill conceived attempt to impress a girl who had been a philosophy major at UCLA, and partially due to his inability to forget a single thing, not even the words on the pages he briefly flipped through in a thousand-page book he picked up five years ago. This is why he hates his father, Shawn thinks to himself, wanting to gouge out the parts of his brain that are full of useless trivial information, random knowledge that he is incapable of ever discarding, that he must carry with him wherever he goes – and the weight, each day, week, month, year, just continues to grow heavier until it seems as if he cannot move.
Watched and rewatched and watched again the zombie movies. Occasionally with Gus at his side, occasionally with his father making retching noises in disgust in the background, but mostly on his own. "Research," he tells himself, though really he just likes seeing Milla Jovovich kicking ass in a short skirt. Hey, he's a guy, it's expected.
Looked up his old buddy Bob's contact information, because he figures at some point he's going to have to ask someone in the know for a set of actual answers. Especially if he wants to give that set of actual answers to Chief Vick. Surprisingly, old buddy Bob is a professor over at Stanford – not tenured, or anything, but impressive nonetheless. Shawn foresees a roadtrip in his future, just as soon as Henry lets him out of visual range.
Tried to forget how his blood had looked, the pattern of it splashed onto the zombie man's face.
The roadtrip to Stanford is something Shawn springs on Gus. He distracts Gus by explaining the whole shtick he had going with his replacement-Guses all the years he had been away from home. Gus scoffs at him, but Shawn thinks Gus secretly looks pleased – flattered, even, surprised that he is so important to Shawn.
But then it clicks in his head that they are going to go visit an alterna-Gus, and he doesn't seem to like that idea at all. His eyes go flinty and his hands grip the steering wheel tightly, his jaw set in stubborn lines.
Huh. Who knew Gus was so possessive of being… well, Gus.
Bob hasn't changed all that much. He's still the seven foot tall muscle bound intellectual of a man. He draws Shawn into an enthusiastic embrace, wincing at the sight of the Shawn's neck, saying, "Spencer! It is good to see you again!"
Shawn claps his hands against Bob's massive, muscled back. Bob has retained his good clothing taste, wearing only tailored suits that are both elegant and casual, simultaneously. "Bob, it's been a while."
They step back from one another simultaneously, and Shawn gestures to Gus. "This is who you were my stand in for," he says, because of course he had let Bob know exactly what Bob was getting into all those years ago.
Bob grins at Gus and pulls him into a massive hug as well. "Any friend of Spencer's," he says, magnanimous. "I have heard much about you!"
Gus throws a semi-panicked look at Shawn, but Shawn chooses not to bail him out. Theirs is a friendship of mutual abandonment and perpetual juvenile payback.
"Zombies," Bob says, uncharacteristically serious. He sighs. "I hadn't thought I would run into such a problem in America. Not for a good long while. Decades, at the least."
He leans across his desk toward them, and tells them what they need to know.
On the car ride back to Santa Barbara, Gus scoffs, "Zombies? Seriously? Come on, Shawn, you know everything that guy said to us was completely bogus."
Gus is nothing if not gullible. If the Wilting Flower debacle hadn't taught Shawn that, then Gus's rigorous determination to never cross the path of black cat would have clued him in. All Shawn has to do is give him one long, extended, quelling look.
Gus gulps. He looks slightly convinced.
Upon entering Santa Barbara city limits, Shawn checks his cell phone for missed calls.
There are thirty. Over half are from his father. Out of the macabre curiousity of having to know just what his father has said to him now, Shawn listens to the first one – it is a minutes long tirade on how Shawn is not fit to travel, how Shawn is an idiot, how Gus is an idiot for humoring Shawn – and goes on until Henry's voice cuts off from inadequate message space. Bemused, Shawn figures that the rest of the messages from his father are more of the same and deletes the entire round of them in one fell swoop.
(It should be noted: the second to last message Henry Spencer left on his son's cell phone was one that was tender and warm hearted and forgiving, baring more of Henry's soul than he had ever previously done. Its recording was an accident, as Henry believed he had hung up.
The very last message from Henry is, predictably enough, "You're an idiot, Shawn." In the process of deleting all of these messages, Shawn somehow miraculously saves that last one to his cell phone's memory – and, in a freak process of random electronics and fate, manages to program his Henry's voice saying, "You're an idiot, Shawn," as the ring tone for when his father calls. At first this causes consternation. But after a while, Shawn finds it hilarious and chooses not to change it after all.)
Five of the missed calls are from random acquaintances he probably had some sort of event scheduled with. Shawn is a social animal.
Two are from his mother, who heard about his close call and plays the martyred-mom act on him over the phone, acting all self-pitying and petty. Shawn loves her, but he gets why his parents split – his dad is too overbearing, his mom too manipulative. It had never made for a happy household.
And then there's one from Chief Vick, asking him to come in to the station.
Shawn grins. They're in business.
Zombie powder. Bob had downplayed its role in the production of zombies, but Shawn has to think that it is more significant than his alterna-Gus has led him to believe. It is apparently an arcane mix of tetrodotoxin and datura (or some other hallucinogenic drug), that, when rubbed into the open wounds of, or ingested by, the victim, a docile state soon occurs – zombie-esque, in fact.
He uses this knowledge when he makes it into the police station, going into a fake trance and spitting out, "Sous chefs! Sushi! Pufferfish!"
His watchers can't seem to make that last cognitive leap. Finally Jules says, "Tetrodotoxin!"
Shawn gasps. He points one hand at her and grins, smile huge on his face. "Yes!"
"That's amazing," Jules says. "The lab just came back with results of tetrodotoxin in the bloodwork of the guy who attacked you." She beams at Shawn.
Shawn beams back, and then glances at Chief Vick, who does not look amused.
Shawn wisely refrains from insisting on zombie attacks. He figures he can bring it up again once he makes his grand finale presentation – which he figures will take place three days hence. (Shawn likes the word 'hence'.)
While Chief Vick has Jules and Lassy tracking down all the tetrodotoxin suppliers and users in the Santa Barbara area, Shawn grabs Gus and goes off on his own hunch.
The guy-half of the couple he saved just a few short days ago – he really hadn't been happy to see Shawn. Shawn can only presume this is because the guy-half was either a) suicidal and wanted to get slashed to pieces by zombie-man; or, b) the guy-half had never been in danger at all, and the intended victim was not him but the girl-half of the equation.
Shawn's hunch proves correct. This isn't much of a consolation when he is whapped upside the head with a block of granite, plunged into unconsciousness. It definitely doesn't help when he wakes up and is immediately confronted with the vicious scowling face of the guy-half of the couple, his arms constrained and his legs bound together.
"You couldn't just leave well enough alone," Shawn's abductor sneers. "You had to pull a good Samaritan act. God. Do you know how much my wife's insurance policy is worth?!" And he raises an axe, as if he is about to behead Shawn – which is when the cavalry rides in to the rescue. Thank God for Gus and his freakishly fast feet that enable him to escape while Shawn gets captured.
Jules is the one to untie him, fingers nimble on the knots and hands stroking soft and kind against his rubbed raw wrists, and Gus is the one to insist on a hospital visit to make sure the murderous husband didn't knock more than consciousness out of Shawn with that head shot.
But even though the bad guy is caught now, the case isn't closed. Shawn mumbles as much on the drive to the hospital, saying, "He's not the only one… someone else is doing the thing… making the zombies. We have to find… the zombie master…"
Later on he will be embarrassed for having said something as lame as 'zombie master'.
The doctor is not impressed with Shawn.
"Two hospital visits in less than a week?" he says, disapprovingly. He is obviously thinking, in his head, Some people lack basic survival instinct. If Darwinism still ruled the evolutionary gene pool, this guy would have been weeded out years ago.
Someone else who is not impressed with Shawn – Henry.
"I tell you one thing," Henry Spencer says, a few hours later, standing at the foot of Shawn's hospital bed. The medical professionals have decided to keep Shawn under observation given his recent frequent hospital stays. "I tell you to stay out of hospitals, so of course, what do you do? You land yourself back in the hospital." He makes that squinched up face that Shawn knows means he is thinking, My son is an idiot. Henry makes that face a lot.
"Gee, Dad," Shawn mumbles. "It's not like I had this whole concussion thing planned out just to annoy you. It's not like annoying you is my life goal."
"Sometimes I wonder," Henry says grimly.
The next morning, when Gus signs him out and picks him up (Shawn is feeling a bit like a child or a pet with the way his life is being micromanaged), the first thing Gus feels it is necessary to discuss is the overdue zombie movies.
"They're going to revoke my movie membership, Shawn," Gus says. "Thank God they can't charge late fees."
Shawn flaps one hand irritably at Gus. "Don't be a stale cracker," he says, off hand. "We have bigger things to worry about."
"Uh uh," Gus shakes his head. "Nope. You might have bigger things to worry about, but my movie membership card is the top of the list for me. You know I like my Friday night movie line-up!"
"Oh, god," Shawn groans. "Just NetFlix! NetFlix!"
"It's not the same," Gus says, jaw set, glancing at Shawn from the corner of his eye. "You know I like to browse in person."
Shawn lets his head thud back against the head rest. The goose egg bruise he has on the back of the skull aches in protest. Shawn doesn't care – the pain at least takes his mind off of his idiotic best friend.
(It doesn't occur to him that this is probably how Gus feels about Shawn, 99.5 of the time.)
The murderous husband doesn't crack under the pressure of interrogation – and his innocent wife is innocently clueless, tearful and heartbroken at the betrayal. If Shawn were not so recently concussed, he would attempt to comfort her via charm. As it is he struggles to keep the room from wobbling too much, and also to keep from puking up all over Lassy's shoes. Though it would be kind of funny to see Lassy's face were Shawn to do so.
Really they can only keep the murderous husband on physical assault and attempted murder – and there is no dispute over the attempted murder aspect of it, as Shawn can attest, having come this close to having an axe lop off his already much-abused neck. This has been a bad week for Shawn as far as injuries go. They can't pin the zombie man almost attacking the couple on the murderous husband, not yet, not without more proof; and the murderous husband gets out on bail within a day.
Chief Vick assigns Buzz McNab to work as security detail for the weepy wife before she turns to Shawn. Her face is exhausted and her shoulders are slumped. "Well?" she says.
Shawn is too tired to mime gnawing on Lassy's brains, so he just says, "Zombies."
Chief Vick shakes her head at Shawn, but at least she's not outright denying him this time. "Proof, Mr. Spencer. Bring me proof and I'll see what I can do."
Shawn never points out that it isn't his job to give anyone proof – that is supposed to be left up to Lassiter and Jules, the actual investigative duo. He is supposed to provide leads, minor clues, hunches – not actually close the case for them. He's mostly grateful that he gets to participate as much as he does. It's more fun, this way.
When Shawn gets back to his apartment that afternoon, it is to the sight of the building manager showing a duo of young women around his rooms.
Shawn says, "Excuse me?" from the doorway.
The building manager turns, and smiles reservedly at Shawn. "Ah, Mr. Spencer," he says. "I am still waiting on your keys."
Shawn blinks. "Um. What?"
The building manager looks impatient. He says, "Your keys. You broke your lease this morning – you moved out. Do you not remember doing this?"
No. No, Shawn doesn't, because he didn't, because he loves his apartment.
Just then his cell phone says, "You're an idiot, Shawn. You're an idiot, Shawn." It's his dad calling.
When Shawn answers, the first thing his dad says to him is, "You're moving back in with me."
"You don't think that's a decision I should make?"
"No," Henry says, curt. "You've proven yourself too stupid to look after yourself. I am taking a preemptive strike against your idiocy. Who knows – the next time you end up in the hospital, you could be dead."
"I cannot believe you," Shawn hisses. "This is ridiculous."
The building manager and the two girls who are trying to steal his apartment right from under him stare at him as if he is the best entertainment since prime time television.
"No," Henry says, "What's ridiculous is almost dying two times in a week and taking off for a spontaneous road trip in between. This is for your own good, Shawn."
"How the hell did you manage to break my lease?" Shawn hisses.
"You're not the only one who can forge signatures," Henry says, terse and smug and oh, goddammit, Shawn wants to punch him so, so badly. "Dinner's at seven. See you at home." And Henry hangs up.
Shawn drops off his zombie movie collection at the movie rental place, just so he can tell Gus, "It's done already! Stop bothering me! I have serious detective work to do."
His serious detective work consists of scoping out all the Voodoo places in town. There are only a handful, and of that handful, only one looks authentic and not gimmick-y.
All that accomplished, Shawn reluctantly heads to his dad's house. He has to take a cab because someone has confiscated his motorcycle, and Gus refuses to let Shawn borrow his company car. Apparently Shawn has damaged it one too many times.
Dinner is just as awkward as Shawn thought it would be.
Though dessert is pineapple upside down cake, which is just… awesome.
His fork poised to deliver another mouthful of delicious pineapple-y goodness to his mouth, Shawn pauses to say, "You do know I'm not staying here, right? I'm a grown up. I need my own place to stay."
Henry smirks at him and doesn't reply.
That night before going to sleep, Shawn resolves that he needs to close this stupid case before he can devote all that much time and energy to finding a new apartment. He doesn't even want to think about how breaking his old lease has damaged his renter's credibility. Somehow he doesn't think, "My Dad did it, not me," will be a believable excuse, because really, no father is that insane – except for Henry Spencer, of course.
Closing this stupid case means he should probably go to the authentic Voodoo shop – the one that doesn't actually have a name, just an uninviting storefront – first thing next morning.
Well. For the value of 'morning' where 'morning' equals 'early afternoon'. Shawn has had a stressful week, he reserves the right to sleep in.
The next day, at precisely two-fifteen pm, Shawn meets the zombie master.
She is a fifteen year old girl.
Jeez, Shawn knows that they're starting kids early on pretty much everything these days – hell, he's the poster child for "get 'em trained while they're young" – but, enslaving random people via toxic substance while still a minor? That's a bit ambitious.
Her name is Ogun, but her friends usually just call her Gun. She is a prodigy, trained in the old ways by her grandmere, and she has a quiet intensity to her that Shawn feels compelled by. She could easily take hold of and control the minds of others, particularly with the auxiliary of chemical aid.
She rolls her eyes at Shawn and says, "Seriously? You seriously think I'm setting people to kill one another? I'm training to be a priestess, Mister Spencer, I'm not out to be a homicidal psychopath."
Shawn had entered the Voodoo store nineteen minutes earlier, browsed idly – found a selection of chicken's feet he was seriously considering buying just to hide them around the Psych Office for Gus to find and be freaked out by – and had engaged the cashier in meaningless chitchat until his observational powers had caught him up to speed. Gun-the-prodigy was the culprit, the who-dunnit, and god, Shawn sort of felt bad about that. It was never fun hauling a kid in to the station (well, it might be fun for certain soulless cops like Lassy, but Shawn has too many of his own personal recollections of teenage trips to the big house, and he can't help but wince and sympathize).
"I don't know why you're doing it, but I do know you're doing it," Shawn says.
Gun looks him straight in the eye. She's tall enough – or, well, to be truthful, he's short enough – to do this. "I haven't done anything wrong," she says, and her voice is strong and sure and lying. Because she may have the confidence to pull the act off, to bull her way through it, but Shawn can read her like an open book.
It's probably a good thing she got caught young. She's charismatic enough that in a few years she could make a significant splash in the criminal world – as is, right now, she remains small potatoes.
'Small potatoes', that is, until the point where she blows zombie powder into Shawn's face, unexpectedly fast, and he coughs as he inhales a lungful.
Zombie powder tastes strange on Shawn's tongue – like rotted decay, the ash of life disintegrated into dust – and Shawn spits it out, keeps spitting, tries to get as much of it as possible out of his system. He's read up on tetrodotoxin. It's not pretty. He can only hope he got a non-lethal dose, and, oh god, maybe his dad was right, maybe he is too moronic to be let loose on his own.
While he's busy spitting the taste of graves out of his mouth, Gun has taken a bag full of chicken's feet and started to hit him over the head and shoulders with it. Which, okay, sounds ridiculous, but actually hurts – because apparently chicken's feet come equipped with claws, which are really more like miniature daggers, and they are digging through the plastic of the bag to bite into his skin.
Shawn wrestles the bag away from Gun; she is disheveled and fierce, and he is angry and scratched bloody, tiny rivulets of blood pricking through his skin at all the points where Gun's attack broke through his skin.
"Okay," Shawn says, "That is just ridiculous. A bag of chicken feet as a weapon? Seriously! That is just. That is just unbelievably ridiculous."
Gun just glares at him. Then, all of a sudden, her gaze shifts to a point just over his shoulder, her eyes widen, and –
"There's someone standing behind me with a weapon, isn't there," Shawn asks, weary. This really hasn't been his week.
Gun nods and smiles a wicked smile.
Before Shawn get move or get out of the way, strong arms have reached around his torso, his neck; have squeezed. Shawn manages the last thought of, Hey, that REALLY hurts, watch the stitches! before he passes out from oxygen deprivation.
"An idiot, Shawn. You're an idiot, Shawn. You're an idiot, Shawn."
"Okay, okay, I get the point all ready," Shawn groans, but the tinny voice continues on:
"Idiot, Shawn. You're an idiot, Shawn. You're an idiot, Shawn."
That's when he realizes it is just his dad calling. Waking up after having been knocked unconscious is always just a bit disorienting.
He gropes around for his cell phone, flips it open; put it to his ear. His dad says, "Where the hell are you? Dinner started half an hour ago, I didn't cook you a meal just to have you not eat it!"
"First of all," Shawn says, "I didn't ask you to cook me a meal." He chances opening his eyes. It hurts. The room he finds himself in is, in a word, poor – dusty, ramshackle, broken furniture and faded wallpaper, thoroughly depressing. "Second of all, uh." He pauses, then decides he should probably tell Henry to organize a rescue of some sort. "I don't exactly know where I am. Uh. I've been kidnapped?"
There is a long pause, and then Henry quietly says, "What?"
"Yeah," Shawn squints around the room, tries to figure out any detail that might help him out. He's been tossed onto a rickety bed, lumpy mattress. The sheets, at least, feel clean, though perhaps a bit overly starched. There is a dim flickering light bulb casting inconstant light, and in the far, tall corner of the room a small, dirty windowpane. Its placement suggests that Shawn is in a basement room. "I was out, you know, investigating, and then I got… kidnapped."
It sounds ludicrous, when Shawn puts it like that. Besides, what the hell kind of kidnappers would leave their kidnappee (kidnapped victim? Kidnapped subject? Whatever.) alone with their cell phones? That just doesn't seem to fit with the unspoken kidnapping code.
"Shawn," Henry says, exasperation and annoyance vibrant in his tone, "If you can't make it home for dinner, a courtesy call is all I need. You don't have to make up some weird story to excuse yourself. You're not eight years old anymore." And he hangs up.
Shawn blinks at his cell phone, which blinks innocuously at him. Then he snorts, and says, "Figures," before flipping it closed. Then he rethinks that gesture, flips the cell back open, and speed dials Gus's work phone.
The conversation goes like so:
GUS: Coastal Pharmaceuticals sales representative Burton Guster speaking, how may I help you?
SHAWN: Gus! Gus, I've been kidnapped!
GUS: Shawn? I told you not to call me at work!
SHAWN: Hello? Did you not hear me? Kidnapped! As in, abducted! As in, held against my will.
GUS: Right. I'm so sure.
SHAWN: Oh my god, what is it with people not believing me about being kidnapped today?! Have I like, lied about this before? Have I been the boy who cried wolf?
GUS: Yes. I'm sure you remember back in grade six –
SHAWN: That was different! I was kidnapped! Mrs. Osmande didn't let me leave the classroom for hours!
GUS: It's called 'detention', Shawn, and you snuck out when her back was turned to phone me to break you out.
SHAWN: Whatever! I am serious this time! Kidnapped! For real!
GUS: Then call your dad. Or call the cops. Just don't call me – I have quotas I need to reach before the end of the month.
GUS: Goodbye, Shawn.
SHAWN: But, Gus!
GUS: Goodbye, Shawn.
click dial tone
Well. Shawn attempts to take Gus's advice and call the cops, but just as he's about to push in the last sequence of numbers that will get him Chief Vick's office on the line –
The door to the room pushes open.
It looks like he's just run out of time to get help.
The little old lady who walks in through the door isn't exactly a sight that strikes fear and terror in the hearts of all who behold her. She walks with a cane, and wears myopic glasses, and is just so, so old and grandmotherly and –
She smiles benevolently at Shawn.
"I trust you had a good sleep?" she asks solicitously.
Shawn finds it in himself to nod, befuddled.
"I find I must apologize for my grandchildren," she says. "My granddaughter for attacking you, my grandson for choking you – I thought I had done a better job raising them, but, well." She shrugs. "I don't like to think what they would have done with you had I not walked through the door just when I did."
Shawn can't find it in himself to be suspicious of the little old lady. She's just too little. And old!
"Now," she says, "I would like you to tell me exactly why my grandchildren felt the need to assault you in the manner they chose."
And Shawn opens his mouth to explain.
By the end, the little old lady's face is troubled, her eyes frowning and sorrowful. "Oh, Ogun," she says to herself. Then, to Shawn, "I have found strange receipts, a lack of recent supplies – I confronted Ogun over the matter, but she was evasive and chose not to answer. Her brother helped cover her tracks."
The little old lady breathed in a deep, shuddering breath. "I can only assume she has been selling a mix of zombie powder to the public. I can't imagine where she got such a thing to sell – she must have made it herself. She always was much too talented." She takes her glasses off her face to dab at her eyes; it makes her look almost naked, vulnerable, and Shawn shifts in the vague shame that he has upset her. He has always had a simultaneous weakness and extreme fear for little old ladies. "I just cannot believe she would use my teachings in this way…"
"Do you know why?" Shawn asks, gently.
She slips her glasses back onto her face and laughs the laughs of the wryly desolate. "Look at this room. Don't you see? We're poor. Ogun is young, she wants things that I can't give her. I hadn't thought she wanted them quite so much…" Her voice trails off, and her gaze goes to a distant corner before re-focusing on Shawn. "She will be granted leniency, yes? As a juvenile?"
Shawn nods. "Yes. And as far as I can tell she never personally drugged anyone and made them attack someone else, so, that counts in her favor. But she will have to go into juvenile detention, for at least a little while."
"Well," she smiles. "It's not as bad as it could have been, I suppose." And she reaches out and pats his hand.
Gus and Henry are both appropriately remorseful over not believing Shawn when Shawn told them he had been kidnapped. Shawn milks this for all it's worth, smirking and obnoxious.
He takes a two week long holiday to recover from all the physical abuse. And also to find a new apartment. Though, actually, he has enough saved up in various stocks and bonds (two words which betray that he has, in fact, paid attention to Gus over the years – he has money stored away, he has net value) to afford a condo. That's a little bit too much stability for him, but, well, it bears consideration.
Chief Vick rolls her eyes at him. "Yes, zombies," she says. "Congratulations, Mr. Spencer, on being right yet again."
"Zombies," Shawn says, smug.
Jules smiles in amusement, and Lassiter sort of… glares.
The wounds on Shawn's neck have healed up, though they look still slightly raw, red lines crisscrossing, the story of Shawn's near-death carved into his skin.
Ogun testified to selling illicit substances to certain individuals who were later charged for murder. Gun's testimony helped significantly in her rehabilitation goals – her stint in juvie got cut by at least a half. Her brother was put on probation, but otherwise suffered little; their little old lady of a grandmother kept her grim watch over them.
Shawn still sees his blood on another man's face when he closes his eyes. It's one of those images he doesn't think will ever leave him. There's not much he can do about that, so he learns to live with it.
Eventually Henry starts to feel a bit guilty over the whole, "You're an idiot, Shawn," message he left on Shawn's cell, that has become the ringtone. To alleviate his guilt, he steals Shawn's cell phone and attempts to erase his message. Unsurprisingly – given Henry' complete and total lack of electronic ability – Shawn's cell phone ends up broken. This doesn't help Henry's guilt complex in the least, though Shawn is philosophical about it – he had been meaning to delete a bunch of outdated contacts from his address book, and this is just a faster way to do it.
He does sort of miss the, "You're an idiot, Shawn," ring tone though. He's conspiring to get Henry to leave another such message on his new cell phone's voice mail. By 'conspiring', Shawn means, 'pulling stupid, foolhardy stunts that are guaranteed to get Dad's face squinched up in that certain way that means he is thinking that I am an idiot.'
"What are you wearing?"
Shawn looks down. "What? You don't like it?"
Gus rolls his eyes. "It's ridiculous. 'I fought off the zombie invasion and all I got was this lousy t-shirt'? That's just stupid."
Shawn grins. "It's true, though. And I did it all on my own."
Gus makes this face that is half guilt and half annoyance.
"Dude," Shawn says, "Movie marathon night?"
Gus glares. "You use your own card, Shawn."
Shawn huffs, but secretly grins.