Shawn hated this convalescence thing. He was walking so slow that his mother had gone on ahead to open the door for him and she was being forced to wait an amazingly long time. "Sorry, Mom," he said. "You know, you could go sit down for awhile and I'll just give a shout when I get to the door."
"It's fine, Shawn, don't worry so much."
"Yeah, Shawn, ignore the turtles that are whizzing past you," his father said, walking by with bags they'd packed from his apartment and all the fun medications he'd been gifted with at the hospital.
"Thanks, Dad," Shawn said.
His father disappeared into the house and Shawn kept up his slow progress. Abruptly, Cindy Alligeri appeared at his elbow. "Hi Shawn!"
"Why are you walking so slow?" she asked, as Shawn stopped, looking down at a small lift in the sidewalk. Eight little cuts in his belly and he suddenly couldn't lift his foot more than a quarter inch off the ground.
"I'm not feeling so hot," he said.
"Is Henry back?" she asked.
Shawn nodded, steeled himself, and took the next step. "Yeah, he is."
"Cindy!" called a voice from next door.
"Mama, Henry's back!" the child yelled, then scampered up to the door. "Who are you?" she demanded of Shawn's mother.
"My name is Helen. I'm Shawn's mother."
"You're not the mean lady," Cindy announced.
"I should hope not," she said, giving Shawn a puzzled look.
Shawn's dad appeared at the door. "Well, if it isn't my favorite little girl! How are you, Cindy?"
"I'm fine." She tilted her head. "You look a lot better now than when the mean lady hit you," she said.
Shawn stopped moving again, staring, and Henry squatted in front of her. "Did you see that?"
Cindy nodded. "She slammed your head in the car door and then stuck something in your butt."
"Oh my God," Shawn's mom murmured.
"I got to go talk to the pleece," Cindy said importantly, and Shawn couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Tective Laster. He gave me this and said I was an onery tective."
"I'll say you're an ornery detective," Henry said with a chuckle, taking whatever it was she had in her hand and looking at it.
Stephanie Alligeri showed up at Shawn's side. "Is she bugging you guys?" she asked, clearly assuming that Shawn was just standing in the yard.
"Not so much," Shawn said. "Did she really see my dad get grabbed?"
Stephanie nodded. "A Detective Lassiter said we were a real help. I identified the woman she saw. Is your dad okay?"
Shawn nodded. "He's fine." He shook his head, stunned that Lassiter had taken the testimony of a five-year-old. "Wow."
"Did we make a difference?" Stephanie asked.
Shawn shrugged, manfully concealing how much discomfort the gesture called. "Detective Lassiter is kind of a stickler, so if he gave her a badge, he sure thought so."
His father stood up from where he'd been talking to the little girl. "Stephanie, bring Cindy back tomorrow and I'll have cookies for her," he said.
"Sure," Stephanie replied. "Come on, Cindy."
His father walked over as the Alligeris left the yard. "Are you stuck, Shawn?" Shawn sighed and started forward again. "Do you need help, kid?" Henry asked.
Shawn sighed. "Can you make the sidewalk completely flat?" he asked plaintively.
"Then not really." He stayed by Shawn's side, though, all the way up to the house. Shawn saw Stephanie watching and wondered what she thought. Once they were inside, his parents sat him down and started fussing. After a couple of minutes, though, he'd had enough. "Quit it!" he growled. "I just want to sit here and watch some TV." He grabbed the remote and started surfing.
A picture of his father in uniform on a local news channel caught his attention. "– ry Spencer, former Santa Barbara police officer and his son Shawn Spencer, sometime psychic consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department." The picture of his father was joined on the screen by a picture of him. Shawn scowled. It wasn't a very good picture. "Shawn Spencer was released from the hospital today, one week after Santa Barbara police rescued him and his father from a warehouse where they were allegedly being held prisoner."
"Allegedly," Shawn muttered. "And I'm allegedly in pain, I suppose."
"Sonja Durnstable, the alleged kidnapper, was arraigned today and pled not guilty to the crimes of kidnapping, assault and attempted murder. She has claimed that former Detective Spencer faked evidence that caused her son, one Robert Durnstable, to be convicted of rape in 2001 and sent to prison where he was later stabbed to death in a fight. In other news . . ."
"Dad!" Shawn yelled, but as he turned he discovered that his father was right behind him.
"I heard, Shawn."
"Damn it," Shawn growled. "Now they're reporting her crap like it means something."
"It does mean something, Shawn."
"What?" Shawn exclaimed. "Dad! That's crazy talk."
His father shrugged. "It's part of the case," he said. "Over the years I learned that anything that was part of a case was fair game for the press."
"It's stupid!" Shawn started to get up to pace, but his body foiled him and he sank back down. "Dude, this really sucks!"
"It's no big deal. I know it's not true, you know it's not true, and the police know it's not true." His father sat down in the chair catty corner to Shawn. "Don't take it so seriously."
"There are people, stupid people, who will buy into crap like that."
"There always are, Shawn. You can't worry about that."
Shawn scowled at the TV screen despite the fact that there was a truly adorable weathergirl pointing at low pressure zones. "Apparently, I can," he said.
"Well, don't. It's not like she's accusing you of anything."
"No, she's accusing my father, and that is not okay with me."
"Touched as I am, Shawn, I –"
"That's enough, both of you." Shawn's mom came into the living room and handed Shawn a glass of juice. "I'm not interested in mediating your ongoing father/son struggle," she said. "Shawn's concerned, you're not, enough said." She looked down at both of them. "Where's the blender, Henry? I mean, I know why you moved the glasses, but I can't find anything in that kitchen."
"Helen, it's not that difficult. I just organized it logically." He got up and they both went into the kitchen, grousing.
Shawn glared at the TV screen and flipped the channel to ESPN News, where he was guaranteed fun and also guaranteed no imbecilic local newscasters looking for headlines. He was in the middle of Gametime when his father came back and sat down, handing him a bowl of chips. "You know, Shawn, I know all your press so far has been positive, but you're going to have to toughen up. One of these days, the relative of someone you put behind bars is going to be pissed. That's just the way it is."
"Dude, that's happened. They've tried to kill me!"
"In the long term, Shawn," Henry said. "They'll say things you can't refute."
"Oh, I can refute them, Dad," Shawn replied with a grin. "I'm not a police officer. I can go on Oprah."
"Even you can't –" His father broke off, staring at him.
"I so can!" Shawn declared. "I go on the show, wow the audience, schmooze Oprah, pretend I've read some of the books from her book club, and they'll look like total idiots." His father stared at him, looking appalled, and Shawn sat back, grinning, and returned to watching TV.
"Helen, I'm really not sure we should have had kids," his father said several minutes later, and Shawn looked up to see his mother sitting down with them with some kind of greenish juice.
"I'm really not sure it's safe."
"Yeah, Dad, villains everywhere, beware. Shawn Spencer's on the case."
Henry rolled his eyes, and they all watched ESPN in silence for a few moments. Then Shawn's mom cleared her throat. "You know, Shawn," she said slowly, "I think you might be a little hard on Detective Lassiter."
Shawn's eyes widened, and he stared at her in shock. "Only because most of the time he deserves it," he replied. "You don't know Lassie, and his performance on this case may have been exemplary, but that should in no way be generalized to all his cases."
"Shawn, the man saved your life," his mom exclaimed.
"Actually, it sounds like Juliet and little Cindy Alligeri saved my life."
"Shawn!" His dad shook his head. "Detective Lassiter was the lead detective on this case. Cindy might have provided evidence, but Lassiter is the one who interpreted it."
Shawn grimaced irritably. "You know, this really sucks. I did absolutely nothing on this case."
"This wasn't a case," Helen said. "This was a family crisis. Let me tell you, arriving in Santa Barbara to find both of you missing was a complete nightmare."
"I told you not to come," Shawn said, and he knew from the drop in barometric pressure that he'd said the wrong thing. "I mean, I just . . . I didn't know I was going to get grabbed. I didn't even do anything wrong this time."
"This time?" his mother repeated.
Shawn blinked at her, feeling trapped. "Jello?" he suggested. "I think the doctors have okayed me to have Jello."
"Don't change the subject, Shawn," she said. "This time? Henry?"
"Hey, I've told you everything I know."
"I really want some Jello," Shawn said, and he started to get up, but once again, the myriad cuts on his belly made him sink back. "This sucks. I can't even flee properly."
"Good." His mother glared at him. "What do you mean, 'this time'?"
"I've never actually been kidnapped before, Mom," Shawn said placatingly. "Honestly. I mean, a couple of people have shot at me, one chick grabbed me and held a gun to my throat. She was actually trying to kidnap me, but –"
"What?" His mother looked at his father with fire in her eyes. "Henry?"
"I didn't tell you about that?" he asked. "The FBI psychic?"
"No, Henry, you didn't. Shawn?"
"Sounds like Dad's been giving you great information. I wouldn't want to interfere with that –"
"Talk." When his mother took that tone, there was no point in resisting.
"She was kind of wacko," Shawn said. "And not very smart. I mean, she was investigating a counterfeiter, fell for him, then he double crossed her and she killed him. I exposed her and her wad of cash just before she and her law-abiding colleagues got on a plane. She drew a gun and tried to get me onto the plane with her, but her plan was foiled by the quick thinking of a sixty-year-old stenographer."
"Was that before or after you had sex with her?" his father asked sarcastically.
"Mildred?" Shawn exclaimed virtuously. "I never touched her!"
"Not the stenographer, Shawn, the psychic. Lindsay whatever."
"You had sex with a woman who tried to kidnap you, Shawn?"
"Before she tried to kidnap me," Shawn expostulated. "Before I was even sure she was a criminal. I'm past thirty. Why this sudden interest in my sex life, Mom?"
"Well, it sounds as though you're choosing dangerous partners, Shawn. Any mother would be concerned."
"Is there any possibility of a safe exit from this conversation . . . one that maintains my manly dignity?"
"I don't think so," his mother said, and he leaned his head back against the chair.
"I've been stabbed!" he protested.
"More sympathy?" Shawn suggested. "Less mockery?"
"This isn't mockery, Shawn," she said. "But it can wait till later."
"Good." He could only hope that later would morph into never.
"Shawn, I'm really not sure this is a good idea," Gus said, looking around nervously.
"You're never sure anything is a good idea," Shawn replied. "Some of our best cases have come out of moments when you told me it wasn't a good idea." He looked around too. His father wasn't in view, and he knew for a fact his mother was off having lunch with an old friend and wouldn't be back for hours.
"And those were the times when we got shot, Shawn!"
"Shot at, Gus. Shot at. There is an important distinction there. My mother can fill you in on it later."
"Why are we doing this again?"
Shawn's real reason would not pass muster with Gus, he knew that. "The criminal element of Santa Barbara cannot be allowed to imagine I'm this easily disposed of," he said importantly. "Besides, I think my dad is discouraging visitors."
"Your dad is not discouraging visitors," Gus said.
"Maybe not on purpose, but he even bored Lassie." He looked at the car. "Gus, I thought I told you to open the door first."
"I did, Shawn. I –"
"Boys!" Shawn closed his eyes at this cheerful greeting from his father. "What on earth do you think you're doing?"
"Getting some fresh air," Shawn said. "And now that I've had some, I'm going back inside."
"No, Shawn, if you want fresh air, let's get you some fresh air, but I think you'd be more comfortable on the other side of the house." Sighing, Shawn allowed his father to guide them back to the porch where they all sat down in chairs overlooking the beach. "Gus, why don't you go get us some lemonade?"
"Sure, Mr. Spencer."
Shawn watched Gus go with a feeling of abandonment. "So, Shawn, where were you really going?"
"Does it matter?" Shawn asked.
"Sure it matters. I want to know what could lure my son out of the house when he's only been out of the hospital for three days."
"Nothing is that alluring . . . except maybe Holly . . . but if it was that I wouldn't invite Gus along."
"So, where were you going?"
Shawn scowled. "Away from the Stepford parents."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Well . . ." Shawn shook his head. "You're being all . . . nice to each other. It's kind of creepy."
"We fight all the time."
"Yeah, but nicely." Shawn shrugged. "I don't know how to explain it, but it's creepy."
"So you wanted to get away for awhile?" Shawn nodded since the truth of that was pretty much out there. "How about if we go away for awhile, would that help?"
"Okay, I'll give it some thought. How about a game of chess, now?"
"You mean the game with the horsies?" Shawn asked.
His father scowled at him. "Yes, I mean the game with the horsies."
They played for awhile, and Shawn enjoyed razzing his dad about the names of the pieces and how the game worked, all the while beating the pants off him. He got a little tired after awhile and let his father play Gus. That actually was a little fun to watch . . . they were evenly matched.
Eventually, his mother came home. She didn't give his dad a kiss, but that was all that was lacking in her greeting.
After a few minutes' contemplation, his father made a move in the current game, then said, "Helen, our son thinks we're being too nice to each other and wants to get away."
"Shawn, you can't go out right now," she said. "Don't be silly." Shawn sighed.
"Actually, I had an alternate solution," Henry said, and they all turned to him. "I thought maybe you and I could go out to dinner tonight, and leave Shawn with Gus." Shawn blinked at his father. Had he lost his marbles?
"Out to dinner?" his mom asked, raising an eyebrow. "Where did you have in mind?"
"Chez Paul's. I have an in with the maitre d'. What do you think?"
"Sure, I'll just go make sure I've got something ready to wear." She winked at his father and left, and Shawn shook his head.
"How is taking Mom to the best date restaurant in town going to help, Dad?"
"We'll be out of the house, Shawn," his father said. "I'd better go check on my suit."
"Gus, I think they're trying to kill me," Shawn said.
"What's so wrong with them getting to be friends again?" Gus asked.
"If they get to be friends again, they'll start ganging up on me. I've had my parents on different coasts and different sides of most issues for fifteen years now, and I like it. If they start teaming up again, I'm in trouble."
"You'd love it," Gus said.
"Would so. Shawn!"
"Oh, never mind." He started putting the chess pieces away.
"What are you doing?"
"If you think I'm going to let you trounce me at chess the way your dad does, you've got another think coming."
"Then what are we going to do while you're babysitting me?"
"I am not babysitting you."
"Are so. I guarantee that my parents wouldn't leave unless someone was here to stay with me. You are my babysitter." He grinned. "You have to tell me scary stories, feed me way too much junk food, then tuck me into bed."
"I've done all that before, Shawn. Except the tucking. I am not tucking."
"You have to," Shawn said. "It's in the job description."
"I'm ordering pizza."
"And then the scary stories, and then the tucking."
"There will be no tucking, Shawn."
Shawn tried to get up, but discovered that his muscles had stiffened in the hours he'd spent in this chair. He sighed. "Will there be helping inside?" he asked.
"Are you going to stop insisting on the tucking?" Gus demanded.
"Fine, Gus, you don't have to tuck me in." He grimaced with embarrassment. "But I'm honestly not sure I can get up alone."
"Of course, Shawn."
Gus helped him to his feet and Shawn abruptly clung to him. "Hold me, Gus!" he cried.
"Excuse me!" exclaimed Stephanie Alligeri, and they both turned to see her by her garbage cans. She blushed and went inside.
Shawn started to laugh, but the act was painful, and this was compounded by the fact that Gus let go and marched inside. He toppled and had to catch the door frame to hold himself up.
"I can't believe you did that, Shawn!" Gus hissed. "Now she thinks we . . . eeuw!"
"She thinks we eeuw?" Shawn repeated. "Gus, you're the vocabulary man. Eeuw?"
"You know what I mean, Shawn."
"Half of Dad's neighbors already think that, Gus," Shawn said. "Old lady Mertz thinks I do it with just about anything."
"Shawn, what are you doing?" his father asked, coming into the living room.
"Gus abandoned me on the threshold," Shawn said pathetically.
"What did you do to him?" his father asked, walking over to help him the rest of the way into the living room.
"Oh, I just convinced Stephanie Alligeri that we're gay."
"That wouldn't take much. She already asked me if you were a couple."
"You're kidding!" Shawn huffed. "If I was gay, I think I'd choose someone with a little more . . . I don't know, muscle?"
"Thanks, Shawn," Gus said sarcastically. "I think I'd choose someone with a little more depth."
"Well, boys, I'll leave you to your fun. Helen? You ready?"
She came downstairs wearing a really pretty dress that Shawn had never seen before. "Don't keep him up too late, Gus," she said. "And don't let him eat too much junk."
Shawn grinned up at him. "Still think you're not a babysitter?" he murmured, and Gus glared at him.
"I'll do my best, Mrs. Spencer," he said.
Shawn watched his parents go, then said, "Okay, Gus, call for the pizza, and then call for a stripper."
"I am not calling for a stripper, Shawn," Gus retorted.
"Spoilsport. Fine, then let's have ourselves a horror movie night."
Gus grinned. "How about this, I'll get the movies, you call for the pizza."
"What movies, Gus? You know all my dad has are westerns, cops and robbers and war movies."
Gus straightened his shoulders, looking proud of himself. "I brought my collection, Shawn. I figured we might need them sooner or later."
"Dude, you totally rock!" They shared a quick fist bump before Gus handed him the phone and went to find his movies.
Helen awoke late in the night to the sound of whimpering cries in Shawn's bedroom. She was on her feet and halfway there before she was completely awake. Unlike during Shawn's childhood, when she got to Shawn's room, she found Henry already there. "Shawn!" he called softly. "Shawnie, wake up."
Helen stopped in the doorway to watch. Shawn didn't wake up fully, he rarely had when he'd had nightmares as a child. Henry soothed him back to sleep, then turned around to sneak back out of the room. His eyes widened when he saw her, and she held up a finger in front of her lips, backed out silently and followed him down to the kitchen. "He woke you, too?" he asked while she went to the fridge and poured them each a glass of cold milk.
"Of course. I'm just surprised it woke you."
"It always woke me, Helen, I just figured you were better equipped when he was younger," Henry said.
"And now, frankly, I'm not used to having you in the house."
She chuckled and sat down with him at the kitchen table. They were silent for a few moments, then she cleared her throat. "Is that all, Henry? No deeper explanation?"
"What do you want me to say, Helen?" he asked harshly. "That watching my son get tortured has awakened a spark of concern in me? I've never not been concerned, I just . . ." He shrugged. "Shawn understands."
"No, actually, I don't think he does, at least not all the time." Henry grimaced and looked away. Helen leaned forward and put a hand on his. "I think he will, if he ever does have a child of his own." She sighed with a smile. "You Spencer men. Such a pain in the ass."
"Whatever," he growled.
"Well, I'm going back to bed, and I think I'll have a chat tomorrow with Gus about his movie choices."
"What do you mean?"
"Didn't you see the boxes next to the DVD player when we got home?" she asked softly. "They had a horror movie fest while we were gone, and I think some of them may have come a little too close to home for Shawn tonight."
"You know it was probably Shawn's idea," Henry said, and Helen shrugged.
"I have no doubt, but where Shawn's well being is concerned, I can usually persuade Gus to exercise his common sense."
"Well, then, maybe you should also chat with him about taking Shawn out of the house. They were halfway to the car when I stopped them."
She nodded. "I'll add it to the list."
Lassiter stared at the memo he'd received and resisted the urge to crumple it in his fist and throw it in the trash. This had better not go through. They needed to put that evil insane creature behind bars, not in a hospital.
"What's wrong, Carlton?" O'Hara asked.
"What's wrong?" he repeated. "Durnstable's lawyer is trying to have her declared legally insane – says she can't help him prepare a meaningful defense."
"Based on what?"
"Based on her claims that she did nothing wrong, that she was only acting in the name of justice delayed, whatever that's supposed to mean."
O'Hara stared at him. "Oh God, that . . . that could maybe fly if she got the right shrink and the right judge."
"The DA is requesting any and all information we have that could discredit the claim, O'Hara, so don't talk like that. I need to take this to the chief."
"And she'll have to decide who gets to tell the Spencers."
O'Hara looked a little sick at that thought, and Lassiter grit his teeth irritably. The chief had a long-standing relationship with the family, but she was also under pressure right now to get the Smolensky killing solved. If Spencer hadn't been taken so firmly off the duty roster, Lassiter knew he'd have been called in. The net result was that the chief might not have the time to go to the Spencers' place, and he was reasonably certain she'd want the news passed along in person. Besides, to fulfill the DA's request, they might need more specifics of just what she'd said, and for that they'd need Spencer, the only one who'd been conscious for the whole span of the attack.
"Yes, detective?" Vick said as he stepped into her office.
"This came from the DA," he said, simply handing her the memo. He watched her eyes scan it, then go back and read it more carefully. She put it flat on the desk and looked into the distance, clearly calculating priorities, work loads and responsibilities.
"Detective, I'm going to have to ask you to go speak with the Spencers and let them know about this development. Review their statements quickly before you go. Only ask them further questions if it seems necessary."
"Are you sure it should be me, chief?" he asked. "The last time I spoke to Spencer –"
"Just don't take out your list and you should be fine," she snapped. "Get to work."
He nodded and went back to his desk. Copies of both statements were still in his personal files so he pulled them out and read them through. Then he tucked them back into their folders and picked up a pad of paper. He was going to have to ask for elaboration, and he wasn't happy about it.
"Do you need company?" O'Hara asked.
"You've got work to do here, O'Hara," he said, and he knew his tone was a little harsh. He softened it slightly. "Otherwise, I'd say yes."
She nodded and returned to her work. Lassiter went out to his car and drove to the Spencer residence. He really didn't look forward to this conversation.
Shawn woke up from an entirely unintentional nap when there was a knock at the door. He took a deep breath, pulled himself together and before he could even get up, he heard the door open. Sighing, he relaxed.
His visitors had picked up in the last couple of days, but most of the people who weren't on shift at this hour had been by recently, so he wasn't sure who this could be. He heard voices in the kitchen, then footsteps by the door to the living room. "Shawn?" his mother said quietly.
"I'm awake," he replied irritably. All this tiptoeing was getting on his nerves. He didn't need to sleep half the day away, really.
A moment later, his mother, his father and Detective Lassiter came into the room, and Shawn wondered what was up. Lassie had been avoiding him like the plague since his list of rude remarks had sent Shawn back into surgery. From the file folders, the note pad and the grimmer than grim expression, Shawn guessed this was work.
"Tell me you've got a case you need my help with," he said with a grin, rubbing his hands together. "We wouldn't want my skills to atrophy from lack of use."
Lassiter's face tightened, and he sat down at Shawn's mother's urging. "I'm afraid not, Spencer," he said. "We can solve cases without you and your psychic pyrotechnics."
"Whatever you say, Lassie," Shawn said, disappointed. What, was he just on his way home? Then why the files?
"This has to do with Sonja Durnstable," Lassie said, and Shawn kept his face impassive with a massive effort. "I need to tell you all something about the case, and ask a few more follow up questions."
"Tell us what?" Shawn's father asked.
"Her defense attorney is petitioning to have her declared unfit to stand trial," Lassie said, and Shawn blinked. There was no doubt in his mind that she was a few Fruity Puffs shy of a bowl, but he didn't think she lacked the mental capacity to stand trial. "The chief thought you'd want to know, and I've got a few questions for clarification."
"Questions for who?" Shawn asked.
"You, actually," Lassie said, glancing uneasily at his parents. Clearly he'd already told them, but was nervous regarding their reaction.
Shawn swallowed. "Okay. Mom, Dad, later." Not without great reluctance, they got up and left the room, and Shawn turned to Lassie. "Please tell me you're not harboring guilt feelings still about that stupid laughing thing," he said.
"Guilt? Me?" Lassie shook his head and Shawn could tell he was lying through his teeth. "Not a chance."
Shawn sighed. Nothing to be done about it. "Good, so, your questions?"
"You said she was sympathetic, can you be more specific about what she said?"
Shawn shrugged. "I told the chief I'd write it all down for her, but I haven't really had the chance." Lassie still seemed intent. "She said a lot of stuff, Lassie. I can tell you she knew what she was doing was wrong even if she kept saying it wasn't."
"She apologized for it. You don't apologize if what you're doing is right, do you? And she spent a lot of time justifying it."
Lassiter looked thoughtful. "If you were given access to a laptop, could you write down what she said?"
Shawn shrugged. "I could try. Not sure how long it would take, and there's no way I'm going to dictate to anyone in this house. I really don't want my mom to know any more details than she has to, or my dad for that matter. He knows more than enough already."
"I suppose you could come down to the station."
"That sounds great!" Shawn said eagerly. Finally an excuse to get out of the house. "Let's go!"
"Are you sure you're up to it?"
"Absolutely," Shawn said. He inched forward in the chair. "Could you help me up?"
Lassiter looked down at him. "Are you still milking this pathetic thing?" he asked with an irritable glare, but he bent to offer Shawn an arm.
"Milking?" Shawn exclaimed. He shoved Lassiter back. "I have seven holes in me," he said, pulling himself forward by the arms of the chair. "And two broken ribs." He pushed himself up, forcing himself to stay silent as he rose. He took a deep breath when he was on his feet and tried to psych himself up to move.
"What are you doing, Shawn?" his father demanded.
"I'm going to the station," Shawn said. "They need my help on a case."
"You are not going down to the station," Henry said. "You can barely stand up."
"I need to give them some information," Shawn said. "And there's this case."
"Is that true?" his father asked Lassiter. "There's a case?"
Shawn turned towards Lassie with pleading in his eyes. Lassie cleared his throat. "Actually, there is a case that he might be able to help us with, but this is really about getting what information we can to stop the travesty of justice that Durnstable's attorney is planning."
"Surely you can do that without leaving the house," Shawn's mother said.
Shawn closed his eyes. "I really want to go out," he said quietly, not caring for the moment that Lassiter could hear him.
"Well, then, we'll –"
"I think Lassie can handle it," Shawn said, looking over at his mother. "Really."
"He's fine, Helen. Let him be," Henry said, and Shawn shot him a grateful look.
Despite his earlier sarcasm, Lassie walked close beside Shawn all the way out to his cruiser. He opened the door and made sure Shawn got inside and was properly belted in before going around to the driver's side and starting it up. Shawn waited till they'd been on the road for a few minutes and said, "Thanks."
"Thanks for what?"
"I know there's no case, I just thought there was a chance that the work ethic thing would get my dad thinking in the right direction."
"It seems to have worked."
Shawn snorted. "Not a chance. That was a reaction to my mom's fussing."
"Your mother has a reason to fuss, Spencer. You know, you have eight holes, not seven."
Shawn glanced over a Santa Barbara's head detective and gave him a slight grin. "You're right. I'd forgotten the second surgery."
"For pity's sake, Lassie, it wasn't your fault," Shawn said irritably. "According to the doctors you saved my life." Shawn looked out the window. "Again."
"O'Hara saved you. I just distracted Durnstable long enough to let her get into place."
"And that counts," Shawn said. "And every not-dead cell in my body thanks you both." He chuckled. "So, was Cindy Alligeri as much help as she seems to think she was?"
"She was, actually," Lassiter said. "Fortunately, I don't have to put a preschooler on the witness stand. Your father can testify to nearly everything she saw."
"If it comes to trial," Shawn said diffidently.
"Oh, it will come to trial," Lassie declared firmly. "We'll see to that." Shawn grimaced. "Wait, Spencer, don't you want it to come to trial?"
"Have you read my statement?" Shawn asked, and Lassiter nodded. "If it was you, just how eager would you be? First you get up in a little box in front of a judge, a bunch of lawyers, fourteen citizens and whoever decided to show up that day. Then you swear an oath that you'll answer every question you're asked about it, so the prosecutor does his best to pull out every scrap of information that makes you look as pathetic and victimized as possible. Then, you're faced with a potentially hostile lawyer who'll ask questions designed to elicit things that will help his client." Shawn shook his head. "I want her to go away for the rest of her natural life but . . . I wish there was a way that didn't involve me going on record with every rotten thing she did."
Lassiter was silent for a few moments. "I hadn't considered that angle." It was on the tip of Shawn's tongue to say that that would take an imagination, but he decided that riding Lassiter could come later. When he had a little more energy. "Spencer, are you sure you're up to this?"
"Not really, but my parents are acting like newlyweds, and I can't stand watching my divorced parents bill and coo like kids. Having both of them here is enough to make me run screaming for the hills. For one thing, they keep ganging up on me, and Mom's influencing Gus. I know it."
"This too shall pass, Spencer," Lassiter said. "This too shall pass."
When the reached the station, Lassiter helped Shawn up the steps but then the younger man pushed him away, disdaining further overt help. Respecting his wishes, Lassiter stayed close enough to catch but not close enough to hover.
Even on the steps people had stopped to ask Shawn how he was. When they got inside, people kept coming up as they crossed the squadroom. Lassiter was ready to smack them for the simple repetition, but Spencer vanished from his side suddenly, and he turned around to find the man trying to climb onto a chair.
Lassiter hurried up beside him. "What do you think you're doing?" he demanded in an irate undertone.
"Ah, good, Lassie," Shawn said, putting a hand on Lassiter's shoulder and using him as a support to get the rest of the way up on the chair. He shifted his hand to Lassiter's head once he was up on the chair. Lassiter reminded himself that hitting him was against the police code of conduct and would be rude besides. "Hey, everyone!" Spencer called, and Lassiter noticed a slight wince. Supporting that volume couldn't feel good on those stitches and cuts. The work of the police station ground to a halt, and people in areas that weren't immediately connected to the squadroom came in. "Hi, it's good to see all of you, too. Since people keep asking, I thought I'd tell you all once. I feel super neat-o keen, and am really enjoying the time off. As one of my more memorable acquaintances used to say, I'm having more fun than a clown on fire." With this dubious statement, he smiled at them all.
"Well, good," Chief Vick said. She'd arrived in time to hear some if not all of Spencer's announcement. "Now then, everyone, back to work." The crowd dissipated and the chief walked over to Spencer. "I've got something for you to look at if you can cut into that time off a little for me."
"I'd be delighted, chief," Spencer said. He looked around. "I'm just not really sure how to get down without dissolving into manly tears and embarrassing everybody."
Lassiter beckoned at McNab who happened to be passing and Spencer gave him a look of surprised gratitude. Between the two men's shoulders, Spencer managed to lower himself without too much in the way of obvious pain. Lassiter had no doubt he was concealing some. The man had proven to be a wuss when it came to small things in the past, but he remembered his complete stoicism and refusal to accept limitations after the motorcycle wreck.
Lassiter explained why Spencer was there in an undertone, and they got him over to the desk of one of the sergeants where he proceeded to narrate a terse description of what had been said during his captivity. He did stipulate that his memory might not be exactly accurate, but that he would try to note when he thought he was paraphrasing. Lassiter felt they couldn't ask for more and left him to it.
The next time he noticed Spencer, the man was slowly hobbling into the chief's office where he shut the door behind himself.
"Yes, Mr. Spencer?" Chief Vick said. "Have a seat."
Shawn lowered himself gently into a chair. "Thanks, chief. How are you on this fine day?"
"Dandy. I'm a little surprised that you came in. I sent Lassiter to you."
"And I didn't want to give a detailed accounting of everything the charming Sonja said where my parents could hear me," Shawn replied. "Dad heard enough directly, and Mom knows more than enough. They can both wait for the trial to hear more."
The chief nodded slowly. "I see. Well, did you have something you wanted?"
"Yes. I wanted to know what to expect. If you know I'm not psychic, what does that mean for my job?"
She tilted her head. "I knew you weren't psychic when I hired you, Spencer," she said. "Especially after I talked to your father."
"He ratted me out?" Shawn guessed.
"On the contrary, he gave me a logical and reasoned account of how you had developed the abilities the minute you were on the other side of the country with your mother. And I've known him for seventeen years and didn't buy a word of it, but if he was confirming the ability, it meant that there was something there. If he'd thought you were really playing at it, he wouldn't have done that."
Shawn blinked. "Okay. Moving on, what does that mean, chief? I mean, you've watched me prance around your office and pull wilder and wilder tricks to get my point across . . . do I –"
"Oh, you still have to do that," she said with a smile. "Admittedly, there are moments when I wish you would just cut to the chase, but I need an excuse to keep you on the payroll. You're undisciplined and refused to work within normal procedural parameters."
"So, I can't be a consultant if I'm not psychic?"
"You'd need something, Shawn," she said frankly. "You have a high school diploma and a string of fascinating but totally unrelated jobs and not much else. I couldn't justify hiring you without a . . . a –"
"A gimmick?" Shawn hazarded with a grin.
"If you call a degree in psychology or criminology a gimmick, then yes," she said with a shake of her head.
"No, I call those pieces of paper," Shawn replied, and Vick raised her eyebrows. "So, you said you had a case?" he asked hastily.
"As long as you can manage one of your 'flip through the file and find a miracle' jobs, yes. You're not going anywhere near the field, and I'm sending you home as soon as you're done." Shawn nodded soberly. She seemed to see right through his docility. "And I decide when you're done," she added. "Ready?" He nodded and she picked up the phone. "Lassiter, bring in the Smolensky file, please."
Shawn leaned back. Everything was going to be fine.