The Road Not Taken
Sequel to "The Longest Day".
Shawn has left.
Lassiter is on suspension.
Henry is behaving like an ass.
Gus is worried.
And his patience is running thin. It seems that he is the only one who wants his friend to come back. Right now, he's willing to go any lengths to get what he wants.
But what made Shawn leave in the first place? And where is he?
Maybe the only one who can possibly find him isn't Gus, but somebody else. Somebody who needs to stop behaving like an ass first.
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.
The story title is the title of a poem by Robert Frost. I don't own that poem, either.
This story continues straight where "The Longest Day" left off. It doesn't really make sense if you haven't read "The Longest Day" first.
The reason why I split this into two stories is that this one is actually going to go into a different direction than "The Longest Day" did. This is going to be a story about the past, though it's set in the present. And it's going to be a story mainly about our favorite dysfunctional duo, and about the glue that's struggling to keep them together – in other words, Gus.
Of course, our other favorite characters make appearances, too. As might some characters from Shawn's past.
- "He was my best friend. I could always tell when he was getting antsy, when he wanted to run. But this time, there were no warning signs. He just vanished into thin air."
- "Life's lesson #20. People lie. And they leave without warning. Life sucks."
The Old and the Restless
Chapter 1 – The Lion's Den
Gus sat in his car, idling at the curb. He had been sitting here for fifteen minutes now, deliberating whether or not he really wanted to do this.
But did he even have a choice?
It had been two days now since Shawn had left, and so far Gus hadn't been able to find a single trace of his friend. And he had been doing nothing but search for Shawn. The little Gus had found out was worrying him greatly.
Shawn had left notice with his landlord that he wouldn't be around for a while and had arranged for his rent to be transferred monthly from his account. Shawn's single potted plant had gone into the possession of his neighbor Mrs. Godowsky. And instead of going onto one of his e-bay shopping binges, Shawn had invested the money from their last solved case into paying off the rent for the office for the upcoming months. Shawn's cell phone was turned off and his large backpack was gone from his closet.
Shawn hadn't just up and left on a hunch.
He had gone. He had planned on not being around for some time. Months, maybe even longer.
Gus wasn't ready to accept that.
Chief Vick and Juliet had taken those news with quite some surprise, but that had been it.
That had been it, who could believe that?
Chief Vick had told him she couldn't put a BOLO out on Shawn's bike just because he had left town. Juliet had told him the same. For as long Shawn had left on his own and there was no sign of foul play, there was nothing either of them could do officially.
Nothing they could do, what was that supposed to mean? Shawn was working for the police, for crying out loud! Whenever Chief Vick needed help, she called him and he always came to help immediately. Always. Without question. And now that Shawn quite obviously needed help, she told him that there was nothing she could do? Shawn was not in his right mind, that should definitely count as foul play, shouldn't it?
So after Gus' quest for help had been blown off by the Chief and Juliet and they had gone back to wrap up the jewel heist case – which, just for the record, Shawn had solved for them – Gus had needed to look somewhere else for help.
He should have known that going to Shawn's father was the wrong choice. Especially after he had seen Henry Spencer storm out of the hospital the day after Shawn and Lassiter had been kidnapped by those thieves. Gus still didn't know what exactly had happened between Shawn and his father that day, but from all Gus knew they hadn't talked to each other since.
Nevertheless, there had been a tiny bit of hope that maybe Shawn's father knew something more about Shawn's disappearance. They had been getting closer again over the two past two years, after all. Maybe there was something Henry Spencer knew. Or maybe, Shawn had told his father something about where he was going, if only to spite him.
Whatever it was, Gus couldn't let the chance that Henry knew something pass by.
But he should have known it was a bad idea.
Henry Spencer hadn't just been his usual grumpy self. No, not by a long shot. In fact, he had behaved like a total and complete ass.
"Gus, that's what Shawn does. When things get tough, he runs. He'll come back eventually, tail tucked between his legs, behaving as if nothing had happened. If I were you, I wouldn't worry."
That had been it.
That had been it!
No mention of the fact that this time, Shawn had left a lot of things he cared for behind.
Not a word about the fact that this time, Shawn hadn't left because he wanted to see the world, because he wanted to get to know new people and make new experiences.
This time, Shawn had left because he had killed somebody.
Shouldn't his father of all people understand that this was something different?
But obviously, in Henry Spencer's world that fact didn't count. So since Gus couldn't expect any help from him, there really was only one person left.
And if he kept sitting in the car for any longer, he was fairly sure that the neighbors would call the police. Not that this wouldn't be interesting, but still. It might be better not to push his luck.
Gus took a deep breath and killed the engine. He got out of the car, locked up and walked towards the front door. The bell echoed loudly in the silence of the house, but Gus knew that somebody was home. The car was standing in the driveway.
After a minute or two, there were steps in the hallway, then the door was opened.
Gus thought he had probably never seen Lassiter without a tie before. But there he stood, dressed in black slacks, a white t-shirt and a with very perplexed expression on his face.
"Can I come in?"
Lassiter frowned, but after a moment he opened the door wider. "All right."
The detective led Gus through to the kitchen where he gestured for Gus to take a seat. Lassiter's left wrist was still in a cast and from his movements it was obvious that he was careful in moving his right arm as well. Gus wondered whatever the doctor who had cleared the detective for desk duty had been thinking.
He sat down in a chair and Lassiter took a seat so that he was facing him.
"So Guster, what is this all about? I'm guessing that this is not a social visit."
Gus sighed. "No, it is not. You have heard about Shawn?"
The corners of Lassiter's mouth twitched slightly, but Gus couldn't tell whether he was trying to stifle a laugh or a grimace.
"If you mean whether the news about Spencers abrupt departure has reached me, the answer is yes. O'Hara seemed in some degree of distress about it, though I can't really understand why."
Gus huffed. "She's obviously not distressed enough to start looking for him."
This time, Lassiter did laugh. "Guster, O'Hara is a police officer, not the clerk at the Lost & Found desk. There is nothing she can do. It might rock your world, but Spencer leaving town is not a crime. Some people might even consider it a blessing. And though I thought I'd never say that, Spencer is an adult who is perfectly capable of making his own decisions. If he decides to leave Santa Barbara, that's certainly not a reason to mobilize the Army. As far as I know, that's not even the first time he simply left."
Gus sighed. "That was different."
"That might be, but it doesn't change a thing. Spencer left on his own volition. What do you want me to do? Find him and drag him back kicking and screaming?"
Gus slammed his hand on the tale, palm down. Lassiter didn't flinch, but his eyes narrowed slightly.
"No. You were there, weren't you? Shawn didn't just leave because he was bored, or because he wants to see something new. He left because he killed somebody."
Lassiter sighed and raised his hand to run it through his hair, but let the arm sink back again when the movement pulled at his injured shoulder.
"What do you want me to say to that? Yes, Spencer killed somebody. He held the gun and it went off as they were struggling for it. He didn't want it to happen, and his actions were perfectly justified. The report on the shooting has been filed away without further consequences for him. It wasn't even the reason for his four week suspension from the department."
Gus shook his head. "That's not the point. Why doesn't anyone see that? Shawn killed somebody. Shawn. He can't just file that away under shit happens and go on with his life. That's not him."
"And maybe that is the problem, Guster. People who do police work need to be able to file certain things away and go on with their life. It's not a pretty job, and it's most certainly not a job that's about the fun and the entertainment. After two years, maybe it was about time Spencer finally learned that."
"You can't be serious!"
Lassiter shook his head. "Of course I am serious, Guster. I'm more than serious. Spencer has treated his consulting work as nothing but an everlasting party so far. He shows up, tricks himself into becoming part of the investigation, makes fun of everybody and everything, then he does his little psychic dog-and-pony show, takes the check and leaves. And now that he gets to experience the ugly side of this job firsthand and he up and runs away. That should tell you something, shouldn't it?"
Gus shook his head. "That's not the point, Lassiter. That's not the point at all."
"Then what is the point, Guster?"
Gus sighed. "This is not about whether or not Shawn is capable of being a police consultant after what happened. This isn't about his job at all. This is about Shawn. He killed a man, detective. Shawn took a life. And no matter where he goes, he won't be able to run away from that."
Lassiter leaned back in his chair and watched Gus for a long moment. Finally, he sighed. "I can only repeat myself, Guster. What do you want me to do? Even if you're right, Spencer is long gone. He obviously thinks running away will help him, so who am I to disagree? He needs to figure that out for himself."
Gus shook his head at so much thick-headedness. "So if Juliet was upset about killing somebody on duty and decided to leave, you'd just let her go as well?"
Lassiter raised one eyebrow. "That is a ridiculous comparison, Guster."
"So you would."
"I didn't say that. But O'Hara is a cop. She knows what her job might require her to do one day. If she wasn't able to stand that, she'd be in the wrong job. Spencer is not even a cop. Maybe what happened up on that mountain finally taught him that."
Gus got up from his chair. He should have known that he couldn't expect any help from Lassiter.
"All right. You just sit on your ass and celebrate that Shawn is finally out of your hair. But I'm not going to let my friend go through this alone. Shawn needs help now, and I am not going to leave him hanging when he needs me. It's sad that nobody else seems to see it that way, especially since Shawn is always the first to volunteer if you needed help."
Lassiter rolled his eyes. "As if I ever needed Spencer's help on something!"
Gus only shook his head with a sigh and turned towards the door. While leaving, he spoke over his shoulder, and he couldn't stop the venom from seeping into his voice.
"Maybe you should think again about how you solved that case of the dead astronomer. From what I remember, solving it pulled you out of a pretty dark place. Congratulations on finding all those clues on your own."
And he turned around and left. If nobody was willing to help him find Shawn, he needed to do it on his own. But whatever it took, he would not leave Shawn alone with this.
Screw Lassiter, screw Henry Spencer, Jules and the Chief. Gus would find Shawn with or without their help.
Angrily, he slammed his car door close behind himself and started the engine. He drove all the way to the Psych office with his jaw clenched in anger. He just couldn't believe that those people, Shawn's so-called friends and family, cared so little about his wellbeing. He might understand that there was no official way for Chief Vick and Juliet to look for Shawn, but he was their friend, for crying out loud! Surely there were unofficial way to keep an eye out for him.
But if they didn't want to help find Shawn, Gus would do it alone.
Back at the office, Gus sat down at his desk and pulled out his address book. Shawn always complained about him being an anal neat freak who needed to keep track of everything. But right now, that trait might pay off. His address book contained everything he knew about Shawn's previous jobs, some friends he had made over the years, and a couple of other people who might know something about Shawn.
Gus opened the address book, picked up the receiver and drew a deep breath. The first number he was about to call was a long shot. It was unlikely that Shawn would go there. And even if he did, it was impossible that he had managed to cross the country and get to New Jersey on his bike in three days. But maybe he had called. Anyway, Gus couldn't afford not to call, not on the off-chance that Shawn had called her.
Gus drew another deep breath and dialed.