Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Santa Barbara, 1987
Shawn locked his bike up and walked out into the park. He was bored. His dad was at work, his mom was cleaning, and Gus was visiting his grandma this weekend. He wandered across the picnic area and past the swings and jungle gym. There were little kids playing on them.
Maybe if he was lucky, Jennifer Styles and Steven Mason would be making out in the bushes again. He sneaked across the open area and into the mini-jungle of bushes that he and Gus played war in. It was darker and cooler under the leaves, but no one was making out. Boring. Shawn kicked a rock that bounced off through the underbrush and stopped against a foot. He looked up, startled. It was Eric Crocker, who was glaring at him.
"Trying to hit me with a rock, Spencer?" Eric said, smacking his fist into his hand.
"Sorry," Shawn said, and he turned to go, but Jason Johnson was behind him, and Tyler and Matt, two others of Eric's little gang were there, too. He turned back around. "Um . . . did you want something?"
"I got suspended from school, panty-breath," Eric said, walking towards Shawn, who was still looking for escape routes.
"Is that a problem?" Shawn asked.
"I know who got us in trouble, too."
Shawn stared at him. He knew that Eric and his friends had been spray painting words that his mom washed his mouth out for on the school last weekend, but half the school knew that. He certainly hadn't told anyone that he'd seen them. He didn't think they'd seen him.
Someone grabbed Shawn's arms from behind. "Yeah," Tyler said. "You told your dad, and the cops called the school and our parents."
"I didn't tell anyone," Shawn said.
"I know your dad called the school," Jason said, and Shawn gaped at him. His father was a cop, too, so they'd probably believe him. "My father was pissed. He said it was embarrassing to have another cop tell him I was a delinquent."
"I didn't tell my dad!" Shawn exclaimed. "I didn't!"
"By Monday, the whole school will know you're a snitch," Eric said, and then he slammed his fist into Shawn's stomach. Then the other boys got into the act and for a couple of minutes, there was a chaos of blows and pain.
They left him in the bushes and ran off, whooping and hollering. Shawn pushed himself back to his feet and sighed. His dad was going to be pissed; he'd neither fought back nor worked it out. And now the whole school would hate him.
Sometimes being a cop's son sucked.
Santa Barbara, 2007
Shawn parked his bike behind his dad's truck and took his time about getting ready to go inside. Coming here tonight was, frankly, against his better judgment, but unfortunately, he'd mentioned the invitation to Gus. Gus, being smarter than the average bear, immediately sussed out his intention to flake and had nagged and badgered him till he'd promised to go, barring any better offer. He hadn't mentioned that last part to Gus because it went without saying that a date with a pretty girl trumped dinner with Dad any day of the week.
He had, however, had singularly bad luck with the ladies all week and was thus forced to redeem his promise to Gus.
Carrying his helmet, he walked up the driveway. The driver's side door to the truck was incompletely latched, leaving the dome light on. Wondering what could have been so urgent as to cause his rulebound father to leave his truck in such a state, Shawn pushed it to and began toying with snarky comments on the old man's mental state as he continued up to the house. He tried to open the door, but found it locked. Leaning on the buzzer, Shawn actually began to worry slightly. Anything that made his father forgetful enough to leave the truck door unlatched and lock the door when he was expecting his keyless son had to be pretty serious.
After a few moments, Shawn released the pressure, puzzled and anxious. His father should have been out the door yelling at him within thirty seconds. He pounded on the door and peered in through the window. Dumping his helmet on the porch, he went around the house, peering in all the windows he passed. There was no sign of life – and no sign of dinner. When he got back to the driveway he went straight to the truck. He started to reach for the handle, but then he thought twice. Using the tail of his shirt, he popped the latch and pulled the door open by the bottom corner.
The keys fell from the floor of the truck to land on the driveway with a metallic jangle. There were two dark stains on the seat, one slightly smeared. Shawn pulled his cell phone out and dialed Lassie's number.
"What, Spencer?" Lassiter demanded, sounding pissed and irritable.
"There's blood on the seat of my dad's truck," Shawn said, staring at the stains.
Lassie didn't speak immediately. He cleared his throat. "Where's your father?" he asked, all emotion gone from his voice.
"I don't know," Shawn said. "Could you –" Words completely failed him.
"Be there in five."
After a moment, Shawn realized he was holding a dead phone to his ear. He lowered his hand, then blinked. He lifted the phone again and dialed Gus's number. His friend instantly launched into a diatribe. "Shawn, you're supposed to be at your dad's right now. Don't tell me, you've met twins and –"
"Gus." Shawn could hear the strain in his own voice.
"Shawn?" Gus suddenly sounded worried. "What's wrong?"
"I'm at my dad's, but he's not, and there's blood in his truck."
"Would I kid about this?" Shawn demanded.
"I'll be right there."
Once again Shawn found himself holding a dead phone. He put it in his pocket and ran a hand through his hair. Where could his father be? Where . . . Shawn straightened suddenly. What if he was inside and needed help? Picking up a rock, he walked up to the door and broke the glass in the window. Inside, he made a hurried search of the house, but he didn't find his father, bleeding or not, nor did he find any sign that his father had bled inside the house.
Shawn thumped down the stairs. "Lassie, good, you're here. Did you see the blood?"
"You didn't mention the broken window."
"I did that," Shawn said. "I thought my dad might have been inside, and the keys were evidence."
"I take it he's not."
"Probably would have been the first thing I mentioned," Shawn said, pushing past him to the driveway. "Okay, Lassiter, organize a house to house canvas, and get somebody to ask questions on the beach, too. Someone might have seen something. Jules, find out if anyone who's ever threatened my dad has been released recently from prison. We need crime scene people here fifteen minutes ago." He walked over to the truck. "No groceries, and I was expected, so I'm guessing this happened when he was leaving and some time ago, so whoever has him has had him for awhile." He shook his head and turned around to find Lassie and Jules just staring at him. "Am I speaking in tongues, people? Get cracking!"
Jules nodded earnestly and hopped to it, but Lassiter gave Shawn a sour look before he turned to give orders into his radio. Shawn didn't much care, so long as things got done. A car pulled up and the chief got out. "Good, you're here," Shawn said, walking over to her. "This situation is as follows. I arrived here approximately twenty minute ago to find the door of Dad's truck ajar. I wasn't really worried till I found the door locked and he didn't answer. I opened the truck door and found blood on the seat and the keys fell out onto the ground. I called Lassiter and Gus, and then I checked inside the house but there's no sign of him. I've got Jules researching his past cases while Lassiter's getting the house to house organized."
Chief Vick stared at him. "Mr. Spencer, we are going to do everything we can to find your father," she said gently, putting her hands on his shoulders. "You need to calm down and take a step back."
Shawn's eyes widened. "A step back from what?" he demanded. "My father is missing. I'm not 'taking a step back,' whatever that means! I –"
Chief Vick's tone grew firm. "Mr. Spencer, I sympathize with your situation, but I need you to take a deep breath and –"
A cup was thrust into his hand, a venti something from Starbucks. "Drink this," Gus ordered. Shawn shook his head and tried to hand it back.
"Mr. Guster," Chief Vick said in an undertone. "I'm trying to –"
"Trust me, Chief, he'll be easier to deal with once he's drunk this," Gus said. "Shawn, drink."
"I don't want it, Gus," Shawn protested irritably, still trying to give it back.
"Drink it, Shawn," Gus ordered.
Shawn sniffed the steam rising from the cup. "It's going to put me to sleep," he protested.
"I think you've got enough adrenaline to stave off sleep, Shawn," Gus said. "Now drink."
"What is that?" the chief asked curiously.
"Triple espresso mocha," Gus said. Shawn grimaced and took a sip. He felt the caffeine start to hit his system and sighed.
Lassiter turned away from giving instructions to Officer McNab just in time to see Spencer drinking a huge Starbucks coffee and hear Guster describe the beverage as a triple espresso. He stalked over and jerked the cup out of Spencer's grip. "Are you insane? He's already bouncing off the walls."
Guster actually glared at him. "Give him back the cup," he snapped. "He needs it."
"Spencer? Needs caffeine?"
"You don't understand, detective," Guster said, grabbing his arm and pulling him aside. "Caffeine isn't a stimulant for Shawn. It's a sedative."
Lassiter stared at him. "Seriously?"
Guster snatched the cup back. "Seriously!" He took the cup back over to Shawn. "Drink, and let the chief do her job."
Lassiter watched Guster lead Shawn over to his car and get him sitting down in the passenger seat. He turned to the chief. "McNab, Ramirez and Parks are canvassing the neighborhood, and Davis is asking questions on the beach."
"Good," she said. She glanced over at the truck where the forensics team was hard at work. She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could, Guster was back.
The usually mild-mannered young man was all business. "Okay, I will keep Shawn out of your hair the best I can, but I want to be kept apprised of developments."
Karen raised her eyebrows. "So, now you're giving orders?" she asked with an odd tone in her voice.
Guster drew himself up to his full height and actually managed something akin to intimidation. "Mr. Spencer is missing," he said, as if they didn't all know that. "I know, even if Shawn doesn't, that he shouldn't be involved, and I will keep him out of your way, but the only way I can do that is if you keep me up to date with what's going on. Otherwise he'll start sneaking into people's offices like he always does." Abruptly, his face got an alarmed look. "I mean . . . not that he –"
"Do you really think we don't know about that, Mr. Guster?" Karen said, and Lassiter blinked at her. He'd assumed she didn't know.
"You knew?" he exclaimed incredulously. "You knew he was sneaking around people's desks, rifling through files, slinking around the office –"
"I've caught him at my computer more than once, Carlton," the chief said calmly.
"And you're okay with that?" Lassiter asked. "You're –"
"Could we stay focused on Mr. Spencer?" Guster demanded angrily, glaring at them both equally.
"Exactly what I was about to say, Mr. Guster," she replied, giving Lassiter a hard look.
"Well, you should have said it sooner!" Guster snapped. "Keep me apprised." He stomped off to his car and climbed in next to Spencer.
"Wow, he's –" Lassiter started.
"Do you have anything to report yet?" Chief Vick asked sharply, and Lassiter snapped to attention.
"Nothing yet." She raised an eyebrow. "I'm on it, chief."
He kept an eye on Guster and Spencer as he monitored the crime scene. O'Hara had gone back to the station with the chief to get busy on research. Spencer kept arguing with Guster, but he did seem considerably less energized. Forensics finished with what they needed to do on site, then towed Henry's truck away.
Abruptly, Spencer got out of Gus's little blue joke of a car and strode towards the mailbox. He flipped open the door and peered inside. Lassiter shook his head and turned to take McNab's report. No one seemed to have seen much of anything at Henry's house since around noon, when the elder Spencer had arrived home from somewhere. They'd have to look into Henry's recent activities, which, knowing Henry, would thrill the pants off him.
Spencer – the younger Spencer – having snagged the mail out of its box, was now heading towards the house.
"What do you think you're doing, Spencer?" he asked in a loud voice. Guster was trailing his friend and expostulating quietly.
"Going into the house," Spencer said. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"It's part of the crime scene, Spencer," Lassiter replied.
"It's the house I grew up in, Lassie," Spencer snapped. "I'm going inside."
Lassiter considered opposing him, but he had to admit that Spencer knew how not to screw up a crime scene. "Let us know if you see anything out of place," he said.
Spencer opened his mouth, eyes narrowed as if he was preparing to refute something, but Lassiter's response apparently took him by surprise. "Okay, I will," he said, and then went on inside, followed closely by Guster.
Technically, he shouldn't allow either of them inside until after forensics had finished, but it wasn't as if evidence that either of the two men had been in the house would mean anything anyway. He shook his head and turned away.
Shawn walked into the house and put the mail down on the kitchen table. Two bills, a reminder postcard from the dentist and one ordinary white envelope with a stamp with a clock on it. He noticed abruptly that there was no postmark on the clock stamp. He glanced over at the desk where his dad kept his paperwork and noticed three other envelopes with clock stamps, and none of them had postmarks either. Additionally, all of them were addressed to Detective Henry Spencer.
"Shawn, what are you looking at?" Gus asked.
He shook his head slightly and ripped open the envelope that had just arrived. It was empty. "What is this?" he asked, looking at the front of it again. That was when he saw that there were very fine slits in the surface of the stamp, starting at the center of the clock and radiating perpendicular to each other, indicating three o'clock. He turned his head again and looked at the other envelopes. Each one had a nearly invisible time marked on it, each one a different hour. He glared at it. It was precisely the sort of thing he tended to see that no one else would listen to, but he had to try.
"Lassie?" he said, looking up as the detective walked in. "I need to get a closer look at these letters. I think they could be important."
Lassiter glanced over at Marshall in forensics. "If he wants," Marshall said, shrugging.
Shawn scowled. Just another sign that they didn't see as much as they thought they did. He picked up the envelopes and looked inside. They were all neatly slit open, and they were all empty. Of course, they would be if there had been letters in them and his father had taken them out. There was no way to tell what order they came in, or anything about when they came, since none of them had postmarks.
It was time for a vision, but something was holding him back. He somehow found the idea of going into vision mode both tacky and extremely challenging right now. His energy was all wrong. There was no way Lassiter would listen to him without a good performance, and not much chance that he'd listen even with one.
"Lassie, I'm seeing something here," he said quietly, and Gus looked at him like he was nuts. "It's numbers, numbers with hands."
"Numbers with hands?" Lassiter repeated incredulously.
"Numbers that click and tick and . . ." Shawn searched vainly for a rhyme. "And pick," he said in a burst of inspiration. Maybe it didn't make loads of sense, but people didn't really expect sense from a psychic, they just expected answers.
"What are you on about, Spencer?" Lassiter demanded. "Under the circumstances, I'd –"
Shawn gave Gus a desperate look. The Guster looked down at the envelopes and clearly made a leap of logic. "Clocks. Numbers with hands, numbers that tick!" He gave Shawn a private look that told him he was reaching. "What about it, Shawn?"
"Each of these stamps has been marked in some way, each one with a different time. This one came today." He picked up the one that he'd opened.
"What was in it?" Lassiter asked.
"Nothing!" Shawn said with emphasis that he hoped Lassiter would pick up on. Sometimes he got the point, sometimes he seemed to be deliberately obtuse. It was tricky to tell which to expect.
"Are you sure?"
"I can usually tell if there's something in an envelope, Lassie," Shawn said irritably. "It was empty, and I'd bet these three were, too."
"Well, my dad's a pretty neat guy. He tends to throw envelopes away unless they're necessary. He'll keep the letters, but he'll throw away the envelopes. He kept these envelopes, so there's got to be a reason, and that reason is a mystery."
Lassiter opened his mouth, then closed it. Shawn raised an eyebrow. "You want to say something rude, don't you?" he said, and Lassiter glared at him. "But you're refraining because of the situation. That's noble of you."
"Thanks," Lassiter said sourly.
"But I can tell it's distracting you, so . . . save them up," Shawn suggested. "Write them down. Then you can hit me with all of them after we find my father."
Lassiter blinked at him. "Right. Well, Marshall, take these. See if you can get any usable and useful prints off them."
Shawn headed upstairs into his father's bedroom, keeping an eye out for anything that might be wrong. Not that he'd know much about what would be wrong in his father's room. His father hadn't really let him in his room since he'd been about ten and had grown 'too old for nightmares.'
"Shawn, I didn't think you were allowed in here," Gus said nervously from the doorway.
"Dad's not here to stop me, and I am taking full advantage of the fact," Shawn said. "Besides, there might be clues."
Gus walked into the room slowly. "What kind of clues?"
"I don't know. You go look in the bathroom."
There was silence for several moments as they looked things over. "Shawn?"
"Why does your dad have a hairbrush?"
"How should I know? Wishful thinking?"
Silence again reined in the room. Shawn opened the closet and saw something he'd like to pretend he hadn't. "I don't think it's Dad's hairbrush," he said, closing the door on the sexy nightgown.
"Whose is it?" Gus asked.
"I don't know her name, but she wears a size 12."
"Oh!" There was a wealth of understanding in the tone of Gus's voice, and a strong dose of the TMI that Shawn was feeling. He walked over to the bedside table. "Shawn?" This was a new tone, one that set Shawn's hackles up.
"What?" he asked a little more sharply.
"Did you know about this?" Gus asked, coming to the bathroom door with a flat rectangular box in his hand, about four by three and a half inch thick.
"Allergy meds," Shawn suggested, though he was reasonably sure that Gus wouldn't make a fuss about a box of Benedryl.
"It's a prescription, Shawn, for Depakote," Gus replied.
Shawn shook his head. "He's old," he said uneasily, not sure he wanted to know what it was. "Old people take pills."
"It's Depakote," Gus repeated, as though that meant something. There was a pregnant pause.
"You might as well say it's dandelion fluff," Shawn said. "What does that mean, Gus?"
"It's an anti-seizure medication, Shawn," Gus said. "It means your dad has seizures."
"What? My dad does not have seizures," Shawn replied. "Maybe that belongs to his lady friend."
"Unless her name is Henry Spencer, it doesn't."
Shawn marched over and snatched the box out of Gus's hand. The prescription tag did say "Henry Spencer," and it also said, "Take every six hours to prevent seizures."
"Somehow I don't think whoever kidnapped my father took his medication with him," Shawn said anxiously.
"This is evidence that they didn't, I'd say."
Shawn shook his head. "Dude, my dad does not have seizures!"
Gus glared at him. "Yeah, well, your dad doesn't have seizures because of this!" he retorted, grabbing the box back and shaking it in Shawn's face.
"Fine! Whatever! It's not like it matters now!"
"This says he should take it every six hours," Gus exclaimed. "We have no way of knowing when he took some last. He could be having a seizure right –"
Shawn clapped his hands over his ears. "La la la la la!" he chanted. "Quit it, Gus!"
"Shawn, this could be important. He –"
"And just what do you want me to do about it?" Shawn demanded.
"I think we need to have some with us, just in case he needs it right away when we find him," Gus said.
"Fine!" Shawn snatched the box, opened it and snagged out one of the foil sheets, ripped a couple of blisters off and stuffed them in his pocket, then shoved the box back to Gus. "Satisfied?" he demanded, but he didn't wait for Gus's response, stomping off downstairs. He had to find something to do before he went nuts. He paced around the kitchen, trying to figure out what his next step should be. He vaguely saw Gus come downstairs and start talking intently to Lassiter.
He needed to get to the police station. He strode out of the house, snatching up his helmet from the porch. He was just settling it on his head when he heard two voices from the front door.
"Shawn, where are you going?"
"Spencer, what do you think you're doing?"
Shawn ignored them both. He climbed onto his bike, turned it on and left before they even got across the yard.
Lassiter growled and pulled out his phone. Dialing the chief's number, he waited for her to answer. "Yes, Detective Lassiter?" she said. "Any news?"
"Nothing substantive. I just thought you should know that Spencer's taken off on his motorcycle, and I think the caffeine might have worn off."
"On his motorcycle?" she repeated. "I thought Mr. Guster was keeping an eye on him."
"Guster has . . . annoyed him."
"In what way?"
Lassiter sighed, looking at the box of pills Guster had given him. "Apparently, Mr. Spencer senior has some kind of a seizure disorder," he said.
"What?" Lassiter sighed, he'd been hoping that the chief was already in the know on this.
"Guster found the medication in his bathroom, and he seems to be concerned that it could be dangerous for Spencer not to have it."
"How often is he supposed to take it?"
Lassiter grimaced. "Every six hours, and there's no way to know when he took it last."
"Aw, hell," she muttered. "All right, what is it? I want to make sure we have some on hand."
He read off the name of the medication and the prescription number, then put the box in his pocket. He disconnected, then turned to Guster. "The chief will make sure we can take care of him if he needs it when we find him," he said. "Where do you think Spencer went?"
Guster shook his head. "Not sure, but I'm going to the station. He'll go there sooner or later."
Lassiter nodded, then watched Guster leave. This was a mess. Shawn Spencer was the biggest pain in the ass the department had, but Henry Spencer had been an exceptional police officer, one of Santa Barbara's own.
The small part of him that recognized the help the 'psychic' Spencer had provided in the past also knew that they might not be able to count on that help this time. It would be a wonder if something like this didn't throw Spencer off his game.
He went back into the house to continue supervising the forensics detail.
Shawn strode into the police station, straight up to Juliet's desk. "Got anything for me?"
"Shawn, I –" Jules started, but the chief's voice came from behind him.
"Mr. Spencer, please come into my office."
Shawn scanned the files that were open on Juliet's desk, and glanced at what was visible on her computer desktop. A few things leapt out at him, but he was going to have to store it away for later with Chief Vick waiting in her doorway. The number of times he'd yearned to be invited into that office . . . and now all he wanted to do was hang out next to Juliet and watch her fact-finding.
Reluctantly, he walked into Chief Vick's office and let her close the door behind him. She turned to him and put her hands on his shoulders. "I know you want to help, Shawn," she said gently. "But you're too close to this."
He pulled away. "I've already found evidence that was missed by your crack forensics team," he said. "I can't take a step back and . . . whatever. I can't."
Chief Vick sighed. She turned towards her desk and picked up a cup. "Here, have some coffee," she said. "Sit down." Shawn shook his head, but her gaze grew more steely. Jaw tight, he took the cup and sat down. She sat down behind her desk. "I'd be glad of any insights or observations you can provide, Mr. Spencer, but I can't have you in the field on this one."
"That's nuts!" Shawn protested. "Can't you see that being close to the situation is actually a benefit to a psychic?"
She took a deep breath. "Mr. Spencer, you're not psychic."
"I –" he started to expostulate, but something in her eyes stopped him.
"You're not psychic and we both know it," she said softly.
Shawn blinked at her. "What do you mean, you know it?"
"I've known all along," she said.
"Why are you telling me this now?"
"Because having your father kidnapped will not tend to make you think more clearly, whatever it might do for a psychic," she said. Shawn scowled down at his coffee. "I'm sorry, Mr. Spencer, but if the situation was reversed, I wouldn't permit your father to participate in the investigation either."
Shawn shook his head. "Look, I can't just do nothing," he said.
"Drink your coffee."
"Can I at least look over the files that Jules is finding? Maybe I'll spot something that connects."
"You've got to make me a promise, Mr. Spencer, or I will handcuff you to a desk," she said, and Shawn blinked. "You've got to promise not to go haring off after something without checking it with us."
Shawn counted the loopholes in that promise in a second and nodded. "Yes, chief," he said meekly. "I agree –"
"I also need you to promise not to leave the building without my permission," she said. "Not to get fresh air, not to get food, not at all."
Shawn stared at her. "What if there's a fire?" he protested.
"I'll come get you," she said.
"That's the way it is, Mr. Spencer."
He sighed. "Okay, I promise. So, I can go watch Jules now?"
She nodded dubiously and Shawn went out, snagged a chair, and sat down next to Jules at her desk. "What do we have so far, Detective O'Hara?" he asked solemnly.
"Shawn, I'm not sure –" She paused, and Shawn could see that Chief Vick had caught her eye. "Oh, okay. Well, here's what I've found . . ."
They started making lists of people who had potential motives, but Shawn didn't see anything that leapt out at him. Names and statistics blurred past him, and Shawn only looked up when Gus came striding in. "Shawn, you're here," he said. "Thank heaven."
"Where did you think I'd gone, Gus?" Shawn asked, deciding to magnanimously ignore Gus's earlier perfidy.
"Well, I knew you'd wind up here, wherever you went in the meantime," Gus said, walking up to stand in front of Juliet's desk. "You've got Chief Vick's permission to be doing this?" he asked, gesturing at the papers he'd been going through.
Shawn hadn't paused in his work, so when he flipped yet another page, he stared in shock and failed to answer Gus's question. "Who is this?" he asked instead.
"Who is who?" Juliet asked.
"Who is this?" Shawn demanded, holding out the file.
"That's Robert Durnstable," she said. "Shawn, it's labeled."
"No, not him," he protested, freeing the photograph from the file. "Her. This chick in the background. Who is she?"
"I don't know," Juliet said. "Why?"
"I've seen her, several times, on Dad's stretch of beach," he said. Juliet turned to her computer to see if she could find out more information, and Shawn turned to the rest of the file. It ended ignominiously with a death certificate. The guy had been stabbed to death in prison.
"It looks like it's his mother, Sonja Durnstable," Jules said.
"Where does she live?"
"This address is in San Francisco, but it's from a couple of years ago," Juliet said. "But you say she's been spending time around your father's house?"
"According to my father, she's been sunning herself there at least two or three days every week," he said.
"Your father noticed her?"
"Yeah, he said she was cute," Shawn said slowly. "He was thinking of asking her out since she always showed up alone, and, I have to say, she is kind of hot." He noticed both of them giving him funny looks. "For an old chick," he amplified.
Gus grabbed the picture. "In no way is this woman hot, Shawn," he said, looking at it.
"I know," he said defensively. "But she doesn't look like that now. For one thing, she's lost weight, and I think she might have dyed her hair. And she's kind of tan and . . . stacked. And she just has this way of walking . . ." Shawn shrugged. "She walks really well, especially in sand."
"We should look into her current whereabouts," Juliet said. "Are you sure it's her, though?" she asked. "You said she doesn't look the same."
Shawn grimaced. "Yes, I'm sure it's her," he said.
"Okay," she said with a smile. Turning her head, she called, "Chief, I think we may have something." Shawn looked up. He hadn't realized that the chief was passing by. His powers of observation were clearly slipping.
"What have you found?" she asked.
"This woman has been hanging around Mr. Spencer's house," Juliet said. "Shawn says he's seen her there several times."
"Her son was arrested by Detective Spencer in 2000 for the rape of a fourteen-year-old girl," Jules said, flipping through screens on her computer. "Convicted in 2001 and died three months ago in prison."
"Okay, let's find out where she is now."
Juliet nodded, but her hands were busy on the keyboard. "Here's her driver's license information," she said. "Issued four months ago, still with an address in San Francisco."
Shawn looked over her shoulder and saw the woman who hung out on his father's beach. "That's her," he said.
"Okay, I can see how you'd say she was hot," Gus said.
"This has got to be more than a coincidence," Shawn said. Chief Vick reached over and took the case file out of Shawn's hands. "Don't you think?" he asked her.
"It certainly worth looking into," Vick said. "I remember this case. Durnstable was seventeen, but it was a particularly vicious rape so he was tried as an adult. Despite the overwhelming physical evidence, his mother insisted that we framed him."
"So, her son's dead, and now she has my dad," Shawn said flatly. If that was the case, the prognosis wasn't good.
"If it's her," Jules said reassuringly. Shawn didn't particularly feel reassured.
He shook his head. "Even if it's not her, anyone who grabbed my dad for a reason like this . . ." Vick's expression had gone all soft and sympathetic suddenly, and he didn't want it. "What now?"
"Keep looking at files. We've got her address, her name and her photo, we're going to see what we can find out, but we can't ignore the possibility that she isn't our suspect."
Shawn watched, frustrated, as Chief Vick issued orders that sent people out to look. He started flipping through files again, irritated. Now he didn't even have Juliet's company. She was off investigating, and he hadn't been given permission to leave the building. Gus went off with Chief Vick, Shawn wasn't sure where. He was completely alone.
Okay, he was in a police station full of cops, but no one was talking to him.
On the other hand, he had free access to a police computer. He just had to keep it active enough that it wouldn't go to sleep and require Juliet's password. He turned towards it, but nothing came. He just stared at the screen where Sonja Durnstable's face still took pride of place and his mind went blank. He closed the image, not wanting to look at it any longer, but he still couldn't think past her. They could look for other suspects, but he couldn't think of any other reason why that woman would spend that much time around his father's house.
He had to keep the computer from going to sleep, and staring wasn't going to do that. He called up solitaire and started playing. And then he realized that there was something else he should do. Taking a deep breath, he picked up the phone and dialed. "Hi, Mom?"
"Shawn, I really can't talk now. I've got people over."
Shawn grimaced. "It's important, Mom."
"What is it? Did you have another motorcycle accident? It was great hearing about that from your father, by the way."
"That was over a year ago," Shawn protested. "And no, I haven't had an accident. It's Dad."
He could hear the sigh. "Shawn, I can't referee between you and your father any more," she said. "You'll have to work it out –"
"When have I asked you to referee?" Shawn demanded. "Don't answer that. It's not anything like that. Dad . . . Dad's been kidnapped."
"What?" she exclaimed, and Shawn grimaced. "What do you mean?"
"I think it's some wacko chick whose son he arrested. Anyway, I got to his place for dinner and there was blood on the seat of the truck."
"Oh my God, Shawn, are you okay?"
"I wasn't there, Mom, I just found the blood."
"That had to be very upsetting," she said.
Shawn shrugged, not wanting to address that. "Um . . . Mom, do you know anything about Dad having seizures?"
"Sure," she said, and Shawn ground his teeth. "I kept telling him he should tell you in case something ever came up. I can't be much help from New York, after all." She paused. "I take it he didn't?"
"No. Gus found his medication when we were looking over the house for evidence." Shawn shook his head. He couldn't believe this. "How long?"
"Oh, years," she replied. "Since before he left the force."
Shawn blinked. "Great. Well, thanks for telling me. I'll keep you posted."
"Do you want me to come out?"
Shawn shook his head automatically. "Not unless you feel a need to, I mean . . . it's not like you . . . I mean, I'm sure . . ." Usually his sentences flowed better than this. "I don't –"
"Is Gus around?"
"Yeah, he's . . . he's actually right here," Shawn said, looking up to see Gus hovering a few feet away. "The Chief has detailed him to keep an eye on me, I think."
"Good. I'll be there tomorrow." She hung up, leaving Shawn with the option of accepting it or of trying to call her back and convince her to stay away. He took the path of least effort. After all, even if he argued till he was blue in the face, she'd probably come anyway.
"Your mom?" Gus asked.
"Yeah," Shawn said. He turned back to Juliet's computer. "I'm going to see if I can get some work done."
"Okay." Gus hesitated for a moment, then cleared his throat. "The Chief wants me to see if I can get hold of some Depakote so that it's available."
"Dad's going to shoot you, you know," Shawn said. "He didn't even tell me. If you go telling everyone he's going to have a fit."
"So you believe me now?" Gus asked.
"Mom knew," Shawn said. "Go . . . work . . . whatever."
Gus went to a nearby desk and started making some calls. Shawn managed to force himself to do as the chief had asked, though he couldn't help regarding it as make-work. He continued going through the files the file clerks delivered, kept adding to the list that he and Jules had started. As the list got longer, he got more and more freaked. How the hell many people could there be who had a reason to want his father dead? That was what was at stake here, he knew. More than likely, his father was already dead in a ditch somewhere. Someone who kidnapped him for revenge had no real reason to keep him alive, and far more reason to kill him quickly before they were caught.
After awhile, he had trouble keeping still despite the way Gus was plying him with coffee. Finally, after Gus had gone off to some pharmacy to pick up a supply of Depakote, Chief Vick came over to where Shawn was pacing back and forth, tapping the spacebar on Juliet's keyboard at the end of every circuit to keep the computer awake. She caught his arm and he stopped, looking down at her. "Mr. Spencer, I think you should go home," she said.
"Go home and do what?" Shawn asked. "Take a nap while whoever grabbed my father gets further away?" Damn it, he wasn't even thinking in terms of them having him anymore.
"I have every available detective working on this, you know that," she said. "And you'll come to it fresher in the morning for a good night's sleep."
Shawn grimaced. "So, I take it I have your permission to leave the building?"
"Yes, but I'm going to have McNab give you a lift home," she said. "And someone will come by to pick you up. Just give us a call in the morning."
"I've got my bike," Shawn said.
"It's staying here," she replied firmly. "I don't want you out on a motorcycle with your thinking impaired, and I'm standing in loco parentis at the moment."
"No, you're not," he said, giving her a very dry look.
"What do you mean?"
"You haven't called it a death trap or demanded to be taken off my emergency contact list," Shawn replied and her eyes widened at his tone. He shook his head. "If you get anything, anything at all, I don't care what time it is –"
"Someone will come and get you, Mr. Spencer, I promise." Shawn nodded. She squeezed his shoulder. "Good night."
Shawn went with McNab, mostly because he wasn't achieving anything, and because he had a sneaking suspicion that the chief might lock him out of the case altogether if he didn't do what she told him. Ordinarily, he'd risk it and try to cajole her later, but the stakes were too high. If he screwed the pooch on this one, he wasn't just out of a job.
When they got out to McNab's cruiser, Shawn saw that Chief Vick hadn't counted on his promise to make him stay put. There were two cruisers blocking him in, McNab's was one of them. The fact that he could come up with nothing suitably snarky to say just fueled the anger that had been building all evening – he glanced at his watch – and into the early morning.
"Sorry, Shawn," McNab said. "It was orders." Shawn just nodded and climbed in when McNab unlocked the door. They were both silent for a couple of minutes while McNab got situated in the crowded cab. Once they were underway, McNab said, "We will find him, Shawn. We will."
If it had been Lassiter sitting in the driver's seat, or even Jules, Shawn might have replied, but all the thoughts in his head were a little too harsh to unleash on McNab.
The drive home was uneventful. Shawn got out of the cruiser and gave McNab a wave. He went upstairs to his apartment and unlocked the door. Something niggled in his brain as he stepped inside, but he couldn't quite place it. He reached out to flip the light on and it hit him. He'd left the kitchen light on, but it was off now. Then his hand hit the already flipped switch.
"Man, I thought those bulbs were supposed to last like five years or something," he muttered irritably, stepping forward into darkness, leaving the door open so he'd have the light from the hallway to guide him. It started to swing shut on its own, but Shawn wasn't worried. His hand was mere inches away from the next light switch. The door fell shut but didn't latch.
He felt more than heard the movement behind him, and he turned, ducking just enough that the blow glanced off the top of his head. He still fell with a crash, the side of his head smashing into the cupboard.
He lay stunned – in more ways than one. Then he felt a pinprick in his ass and a burning sensation in the muscle as something was injected. The world grew distant, then went away altogether.